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Kruis: I still have England ambitions but I love life in Japan

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s a lineout guru for Saracens, England and the Lions, George Kruis has always seemed one of rugby’s quiet leaders. Over the course of an hour chatting from the suburbs of Tokyo, it is increasingly clear that he is becoming a vitally important trailblazer.

There is the very fact that Kruis used the unfortunate opportunity presented by Saracens’ relegation to take himself to Japan, where he is feeling the mental and physical benefits of stepping away from the relentless treadmill of the European game while playing for Panasonic Wild Knights. 

He initially signed a one-year deal but has enjoyed it so much that he has taken the option to extend it, meaning he will not be back in English rugby until the 2022/23 season at the earliest.

And then there are his evolving business interests. The easier pace of life in Japan has allowed Kruis to throw himself ever more into FourFive, the business he launched with former Sarries team-mate Dom Day in 2018. 

While Day focuses on the growing retail side of the business’s original area, CBD and nutrition, Kruis – inspired by Saracens, eight years spent working with the Rugby Players’ Association and time on the England Players’ Board – has worked hard on diversifying the business so that it helps fellow sportspeople off the field. 

First, let’s talk rugby, Japan, and his decision to stay another year. 

“I was craving something different,” he says. “I’d been in north London for 12 years, grew up in south London. It was a bold decision, but it’s ticked the boxes I wanted to tick and I’m still enjoying that.

“As soon as I got here I realised I liked it. The tough thing is I’d love to go back and represent England and Sarries again, and still have big ambitions for that. I wouldn’t go back to another club other than Sarries. I’ve trashed my negotiating skills there!

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“I’m really enjoying it and suits what I’m after in my life right now, I want to learn new cultures and have the ability to work on off-field bits with the downtime, but also win trophies with Panasonic, which is a really good club. They have bent over backwards to accommodate business bits and help out off field. They are a well-run operation, and onfield it’s great too. I’m very grateful that I’ve had that opportunity. 

“The fact I’ve signed up for another is an indication of that.”

Kruis is still talking to people at Saracens and England, and harbours hopes of being involved in the Lions – but is not expecting the call from Warren Gatland. “I’d be pumped, but I fully understand I’ve removed myself a bit from that dynamic,” he says.

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