Toulon utility back Matt Giteau has confirmed that he will switch to the Japanese Top League for the 2017/18 season.
The Australia international confirmed the news on his Instagram account on Monday.
Je veux announcer que à la fin de cette saison je vais partir pour jouer en Japon. Prendre cette décision était la plus difficile de ma carrière rugbystique mais elle est la meilleure pour ma famille pour être plus proche à l’Australie. Je veux dire un grand merci aux joueurs, (qui j’ai rendu la vie longue amitié avec), aux entraîneurs, au Président et au staff dans les coulisses depuis 2011. Je dois beaucoup à vous Je veux aussi dire un grand merci aux supporters Toulonnais qui resteront dans ma cœur à vie. Le temps passé à Toulon a été la meilleure période de ma carrière rugbystique. Mon objectif principle maintenant est de gagner des titres pour ce club historique ????⚫️ #ToujoursToulonnais #MerciEncore
Giteau’s future was under a cloud through an injury-hampered 2016 but his recent return to Toulon’s starting team after a lengthy ankle injury showed he hadn’t missed a beat, helping the side qualify for the European Cup quarter-finals.
The 34-year-old signed his last contract with Toulon in 2014, a two-year deal with an option for a third that brought his time in France to six seasons, at the time tweeting, “Very happy I will finish my career here.”
Since then, the international rugby landscape has undergone vast change, with Giteau returning to the Wallabies under the 60-cap barrier for overseas-based players.
That in itself was a strain for Giteau and Toulon, as Boudjellal played hard ball with his Australian players, withholding or docking salaries for the time they spent with the Wallabies, even during the 2015 World Cup.
Indeed the inside back still fought off retirement speculation as late as last year after that injury in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, adamant he was not calling time just yet.
Powerhouse side Suntory Sungoliath loom as Giteau’s most likely destination, with former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones believed to have been influential in uniting the two.
Jones, who fast-tracked Giteau to the Wallabies in 2002 before he had played a Super Rugby game, coached Suntory from 2009 to 2012 and brought many high-profile players to the competition powerhouse.
The Sungoliath currently boast Smith in their ranks but that’s just the start of their Australian connection, with Wallabies legend George Gregan also playing a stint at the club.
There were reports the Brumbies were chasing their hometown hero’s signature for the 2016 Super Rugby season in a bid to fill the void of Leukaemia sufferer Christian Lealiifano.
Australians Drew Mitchell, James O’Connor and Liam Gill are still contracted to the team in the south of France, though there has been plenty of speculation that Mitchell has been trying to find his way back to Australia.
Giteau has a glittering record with Toulon, having led the club to three consecutive Champions Cup triumphs in a stellar period for the team.
News of his move follows Adam Ashley-Cooper’s revelation that Bordeaux-Bègles has opted not to extend his contract, after two seasons with the club.