Star rugby winger Marika Koroibete headed to Japan

SYDNEY (AP) — Star winger Marika Koroibete is leaving Australian rugby to play in Japan.

The Fiji-born Koroibete said Friday he would join former Australia coach Robbie Deans’ 2021 championship-winning Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japan Rugby League One.

The 2019 John Eales medalist as Australia’s player of the year will link up with the Wild Knights for the new professional league's start on Jan. 7.

His decision is a blow for his Super Rugby team the Melbourne Rebels and the Wallabies, with test coach Dave Rennie reluctant to use overseas-based players for national team duty.

“I am very excited to be joining Saitama from 2022 season. I have been a big fan of the growing game in Japan and enjoyed my time in the country for the 2019 Rugby World Cup,” Koroibete said. “I have heard great things about Robbie Deans coaching and have had pleasant experiences in our brief chats so far."

The Wild Knights won the last Top League title this year. Koroibete will join fellow Australians Dylan Riley and loose forwards Jack Cornelsen and Ben Gunter on the club’s roster.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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