Australia captain Michael Hooper will join Japan Rugby Top League side Toyota Verblitz next season, his Super Rugby coach Rob Penney confirmed Wednesday.
The 28-year-old Wallabies skipper, who also captains Super Rugby's Waratahs, is leaving Australia on a six-month release, Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union confirmed.
At Verblitz, Hooper will line up with former All Blacks captain Kieran Read and Japan star Kazuki Himeno in the back row -- described by many already as a world class unit.
"Quality man, unbelievably robust player with the toughness of a forward and the skill set of a back and an unmatched work ethic and hunger to succeed," Penney, who formerly coached in Japan with NTT Communications Shining Arcs and Toyota Industries Shuttles, told Kyodo News regarding Hooper.
Hooper has been capped 99 times by Australia.
"This is a great opportunity for me to learn in a new rugby environment and develop a different perspective on the game," Hooper said according to the http://Rugby.com.au website.
Rugby Australia's Interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke hailed the Australia skipper's move.
"We're incredibly supportive of Michael making this move in the first half of 2021," Clarke said. "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."
"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."
Verblitz are coached by former Waratahs assistant Simon Cron, while former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is the director of rugby.