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Levave to have season in Japan

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Sportal.co.nz     21 Jul 2012     Getty Images

The 26-year-old loose forward announced on Friday he had re-signed with the Wellington-based Super Rugby franchise for another year before revealing he had negotiated a deal that would allow him to secure his financial future by playing a season in Japan's Top League with Honda Heat as well.

Up until now, such deals to have sabbaticals and/or play abroad have been reserved for All Black players only. Daniel Carter was the first to benefit when he headed to France to play for Perpignan in 2009.

Ma'a Nonu more recently played for Japan Top League side Ricoh Black Rams and then joined up with the Blues for this year's Super Rugby competition, while All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has a sabbatical clause in his contract.

Levave, who departs for Japan on Sunday and won't play any ITM Cup, acknowledged being granted such a deal could create tension within rugby's ranks.

"It may create a bit of a rift in the environment, me being a non-All Black and being able to go to Japan and come back," he admitted.

"But I've been given approval from the NZRU and the blessing from the Hurricanes.

"At the end of the day, I've got to do what's right for myself and what's right for my family.

"As much as that, I didn't want to go away and not have the blessing from the Hurricanes and not have the blessing from the NZRU."

Levave also revealed he had prepared himself in case the NZRU and the Hurricanes rejected his request.

"I prepared myself for the worse. If things weren't possible my option was to just cancel everything and stay and play ITM Cup and play for the Hurricanes," he said.

"I was aware of every single outcome and I prepared myself for everything.

"I'm just happy with the outcome and that I get to stay and be a Hurricane."

Levave played all bar one game in the Hurricanes' Super Rugby campaign this year but had no concerns about foregoing an off-season and hitting the 2013 tournament fresh from his endeavour in Japan.

"Even if I was to stay and go into ITM Cup there's not much of a break there," he said. "You only get two weeks off and then you get another two weeks off over Christmas.

"I'm not too concerned. I'm actually excited about the position I'm in, but I guess we'll find out when I return from Japan."

He expects to play the full season in Japan and return to the Hurricanes in time for their final pre-season game.