Mark Gerrard signs with Japanese club - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mark Gerrard signs with Japanese club

24/04/2009 06:29:01 PM Comments (0)

Former Wallabies fullback Mark Gerrard still holds ambitions of playing at the 2011 World Cup despite ditching the Brumbies for club rugby in Japan.

Gerrard will quit the Super 14 franchise on May 31, a year early on his three-year deal, to join Japanese second division club NTT Communications.

But despite signing a two-year deal, the 26-year-old didn't rule out returning to Australia for the 2011 Super 14 campaign and possible selection for the World Cup in New Zealand.

Gerrard was overlooked by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans last year and the former NSW Waratah admitted his move abroad was a big gamble.

"It is a big sacrifice, my parents aren't overly joyous that I am leaving and heading to a different country," an injured Gerrard said on Friday.

"And the fact that I am in a lot better form than I have been in the past and (there is) the opportunity for me to pull on a gold jersey.

"It's not that I was probably a little bit ill-hearted towards last year, I'm almost glad that it didn't happen last year, purely to make my game better, to make me better."

Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said the franchise would be receptive should Gerrard decide to return in 2011.

"We have not ruled out him coming back," Fagan said.

"We would love to see him here in 2011."

Gerrard made his Super debut with the Waratahs in 2002 and moved to the Brumbies the following year.

He has earned 79 Super rugby caps and is third on the ACT side's list of all-time point scorers with 306 points, behind Stirling Mortlock (963) and Joe Roff (590).

He also helped the team to their Super 12 title in 2004 with a three-try haul against the Crusaders in the final.

Gerrard said after nine seasons of Super rugby he was ready for a new challenge.

"It's going to be very different obviously, but that's one of the reasons I'm going to Japan - to spend more time with Larisa and the kids," he said.

"To probably minimise my volume on the field and work to life after.

"It is something that I needed to refresh me as a person, it's something that we've spoken about in my life and I'm glad that we are doing it."

Fagan said the club would look at attracting and developing new talent, like the Western Force's teenage sensation James O'Connor, to fill Gerrard's boots in 2010.

"When you lose a world-class player you want to try and replace them with someone of similar quality and James O'Connor is a player who has tremendous potential," Fagan said.

"He has got a lot of development in his game still as an 18-year-old, but I think if he was here in Brumbies colours with the quality of players that will be playing around him next year, that would really fast-track that development."

Already the club has re-signed prop Ben Alexander and hooker Stephen Moore and Fagan said negotiations are in their final stages with lock Mark Chisholm, prop Salesi Ma'afu, centre Tyrone Smith and flanker George Smith.

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