WELLINGTON - Seasoned Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis has ruled himself out of All Black contention by signing a one-season contract to play in Japan.
Ellis, 30, will join the Kobelco Steelers at the end of the Super Rugby season, meaning he will be out of the running for the All Blacks for the rest of the year.
However, the 26-Test veteran has committed to returning to the Crusaders next year, extending his contract to 2015.
Ellis' last Test was the World Cup final in 2011, having failed to earn selection after Steve Hansen took the New Zealand coaching reins.
He hopes his Japan move won't count against him next year.
"I love playing for Canterbury and the Crusaders and I would love the chance to represent New Zealand again if the opportunity ever came up," he said.
"This is certainly not a sign of my playing days in New Zealand coming to an end.
"I am just fortunate to have the ability to play rugby in Japan, which is something I've always wanted to do, and then return home to continue with the Crusaders."
It is a return to Kobe for Ellis, who lived in the Japanese city as a youngster when his parents worked there for three years.
Ellis might miss the early part of the Crusaders' campaign next year but he leaves with the blessing of coach Todd Blackadder.
"Andy has been such a loyal servant to New Zealand rugby and he fully deserves this opportunity to go and gain some international experience.
"He has so much more to offer New Zealand rugby so it is fantastic that he continues to see his future here."