Wallabies captain Michael Hooper will head overseas for the first half of next year, Rugby Australia said Wednesday, after reportedly signing a six month deal with Japanese Top League side Toyota Verblitz.
Hooper will miss most of the New South Wales Waratahs' 2021 Super Rugby season after being released for six months as part of a pay deal agreed earlier this year, Rugby Australia said in a statement.
"This is a great opportunity for me to learn in a new rugby environment and develop a different perspective on the game," the 28-year-old said.
A pay deal agreed with Rugby Australia in April gave several players the option of a six-month release after agreeing to take pay cuts in the fallout of the coronavirus epidemic.
Hooper, who boasts 99 caps for his country, would still be able to return in time to complete the season for the Waratahs, as well being available for all the Wallabyy tests as part of the deal.
Rugby Australia's interim chief executive Rob Clarke said although Hooper was headed overseas it was clear he was committed to the national side.
"It’s a prudent decision, especially for someone who has been a devoted servant to the domestic game here in Australia for over 10 years now," Clarke said.
"While he will head overseas for the first six months of next year, Michael has made it abundantly clear how committed he is to Australian Rugby until at least the Rugby World Cup in 2023."
Hooper said he remained positive for the future of Australian rugby.
"Super Rugby AU competition this year has unearthed some really good young talent and they are all keeping me on my toes," he said.
"I’m really excited in the direction of Rugby in Australia both at a Super Rugby level and at the Wallabies too under Dave (Rennie)."