New Zealand hooker Dane Coles has put his plans to retire from rugby on hold, after agreeing a deal to continue playing for the 2023/24 season. Coles was set to hang up the boots following the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but has instead signed for Japan Rugby League One club Kubota Spears.
Coles was unveiled as the Spears’ newest signing shortly after the All Blacks returned to New Zealand with silver medals, following their 12-11 defeat to South Africa in the Final. The 90-cap All Black signed with the Tokyo club as injury cover for Malcolm Marx, who has been ruled out for the entire 2023/24 campaign. The Springboks hooker suffered a severe knee injury, and had his Rugby World Cup campaign cut short after the opening round match against Scotland.
The 36-year-old is the second oldest player to represent New Zealand behind 40-year old Ned Hughes. The amateur era All Black ran out at hooker for New Zealand from 1907 to 1921. Coles will be joining veteran Wales fullback Liam Williams at Kubota Spears, with his deal expected to be a one-year stint.
Coles was left out of Ian Foster’s match-day squads for the Rugby World Cup semi-final and Final, with Codie Taylor selected to start in the number two jersey and Samisoni Taukei’aho coming off the bench. Coles 90th and final All Blacks cap came in the 28-24 quarter-final victory over Ireland, after eleven years in the black jersey.
Coles led New Zealand up-front in their run to 2015 Rugby World Cup glory, and has been a long-serving hooker for the Hurricanes. Coles progressed into the Super Rugby side in 2009, after beginning his professional career at Provincial Championship club Wellington in 2007.
Coles spent his entire 17-year career in New Zealand’s capital city, with this move to Japan happening alongside numerous fellow All Blacks leaving their home country. There is a definite ‘end of an era’ feel to New Zealand’s national team, as Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett join Coles in Japan, with their move to Toyota Verblitz.
The most-capped All Black Sam Whitelock moves to the French Top 14, after agreeing a deal with Pau, whilst his second row partner Brodie Retallick is linked with a move to Kobelco Kolbe Steelers in Japan. Richie Mo’unga is also off to the Far East, after agreeing a move to Toshiba Brave Lupus.