Cane joins backrow teammate Ardie Savea in Japan on a contracted sabbatical, but there are other All Blacks in Japan that are not signed with NZR and therefore ineligible to play Test rugby with the All Blacks.
His three-year deal with the Toshiba Brave Lupus ensures that would not happen until 2027 at the earliest, however Mo’unga stated he would like to play in Japan “until I retire”.
Other players include blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, also at Brave Lupus, and Beauden Barrett who is on a one-year deal at Toyota Verblitz. Veterans Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick have also joined clubs in Japan but unlikely to resume international duty.
Cane used the Springboks as an example of how their players have been able to manage the demands of international rugby after playing in Japan Rugby League One.
“A lot of the Springboks have shown the ability to play in League One and go back to international rugby fairly quickly and continue to play their best,” Cane said at an introductory news conference in Tokyo.
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup final team had many Japan-based players including Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Pieter-Steph du Toit and now Cheslin Kolbe, who joins Cane at Tokyo Sungoliath.
“I think the challenge for us guys on shorter term deals will be returning [home] in the hope of playing international rugby again,” Cane said.
“If we play well here and get back, should the opportunity to represent the All Blacks again, that we can show that we’ve improved our games.
“If we can do that, then maybe the conversation can be had at New Zealand Rugby.”