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Kaino makes 'toughest decision' but could be back

Published: 6:31PM Thursday March 22, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Jerome Kaino has admitted that the decision to leave New Zealand rugby was the most difficult decision of his playing career.

The 48-Test All Black loose forward confirmed this morning that he had signed a two-year deal with Japanese club Toyota, starting at the end of the year.

ONE News understands the deal is the largest ever offered to a New Zealand player and his management said it was a "significant" deal.

It means he has played his last game on New Zealand soil for the forseeable future, after a shoulder injury ended his Super Rugby campaign with the Blues.

Kaino, who was the stand-out in the All Blacks' victorious World Cup campaign, said he had struggled with the decision to give up the All Black jersey.

"My family along with my management group have been through a thorough process and arrived at this point, it's been the toughest decision of my life, but with all things considered it felt right for my family," Kaino told reporters today.

"It's been a huge honour to be an All Black an one that I'll treasure for the rest of my life."

The New Zealand Rugby Union gave Kaino their blessing and acknowledged the work he had put into national teams since he first played for New Zealand secondary schools in 2001.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitted he was disappointed with the decision, but also wished Kaino the best.

"JK (Kaino) has been a key figure in the All Blacks for several years now and part of the backbone of the side. He is a top man and I have been lucky enough to see him grow and develop over his years in the black jersey," Hansen said in a statement.

"He will be missed but we wish him, his wife Di and their family all the very best, and we hope to see him back in New Zealand one day."

Kaino said Hansen's promotion to head coach of the All Blacks had made his decision even harder.

"I've been really close with him and he's been behind a lot of what I've been able to achieve in the All Black jersey so that was quite tough for me," Kaino said.

"He was disappointed, that was probably the hardest phone call that I had to make."

However the 28-year-old has not completely shut the door on New Zealand rugby and still hopes to play for the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup after returning from the Japanese venture.

"That's what I want to do, I want to get some experience overseas with the family for now, get some family time in and play some rugby, but in a couple of years time I want to come back and challenge for that jersey again.

"I'm not saying it's going to be easy if I decide to come back, but that's all part of sport, you give someone an opportunity and it's a challenge to get back and I'm looking forward to coming back."

While the money, which is understood to be significantly more than the NZRU could offer, was attractive to Kaino he was also lured by the lifestyle, which would see him play less rugby over the year and able to spend more time with his family.

He hoped this would have a positive effect on his fitness and help prolong his career after putting his body through the rigours of a jam-packed international schedule.

"With the injury layoff it kind of helped my decision, my bdoy's taken a bit of a battering the last couple of years and I think going over to Japan would help with getting the body right and also a different style of rugby."