Digby Ioane will not return to the BNZ Crusaders in 2018, opting to remain at his current Japanese Club, the Panasonic Wild Knights, instead.

BNZ Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson said Ioane and the Crusaders had reached a mutual decision that staying in Japan was the best thing for him.

“We loved having Digby in our environment this year and he brought all of the energy and charisma that we knew he would.  However, in talking to Digby since he has been in Japan and scoring tries left, right and centre for the Panasonic Wild Knights, we have mutually agreed that at this stage his rugby career is going to benefit from him focusing on that team,” Robertson said.

It is Ioane’s first season with the Panasonic Wild Knights, who are coached by former Crusaders coach Robbie Deans and are currently leading the Japan Top League competition with an unbeaten run so far.  Ioane said he was loving the environment there and enjoying contributing to another winning team.

“The culture and values here at the Panasonic Wild Knights are similar to the Crusaders in many ways.  When I moved to Christchurch this year and joined the Crusaders I started to love playing rugby again.  That has continued here at Panasonic thanks to the professional standards that Robbie Deans demands and the supportive culture he has set up, so I am enjoying playing rugby right now as much as I ever have,” Ioane said.

“It wasn’t easy to make the decision not to return to the Crusaders in 2018, and I will miss my teammates and all of the other people I met while I was there.  There is some awesome young talent in the Crusaders squad and I wish them all the best.  For me, at this stage of my playing career, I am aware that I am much more likely to end up dealing with injuries at that Super Rugby level.  It feels great to be injury free and getting regular game time at the moment so I know that this is the right thing for me.  Now that the decision has been made I am excited to be able to put my full focus into this team and help them continue the successful run we’ve been enjoying so far.”