The 30-year-old, 94-Test All Black has announced he has signed a two–year contract with the Japanese club NTT Docomo from next year.
Muliaina said: “I consider myself to have been incredibly lucky with my career in New Zealand. Rugby has offered me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that will stay with me forever. It’s hard to single any one moment out but obviously winning Commonwealth Gold and the opportunity to captain my country were things I thought were only dreams when I was growing up.”
“But, once this season is over it will be time for something different. Japan itself offers a completely different culture and way of life that my entire family is looking forward to experiencing.”
NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen has paid tribute to Muliaina.
“Mils is a rugby legend. He has achieved so much in New Zealand, especially with the All Blacks and it’s exciting for him that he can head off next year on another rugby adventure with his family. We certainly wish them all the best.”
All Blacks Coach Graham Henry has known Muliaina since he moved from Southland to Auckland as a schoolboy.
“Mils goes to Japan next year with the best wishes of everyone involved in the All Blacks. He is a special All Black; along with Richie McCaw our most capped Test player; an outstanding footballer who is the best in the world in his position,” Henry said.
“Mils is a natural leader, he has tremendous respect of his peers and has helped considerably in the development of younger players. He has been a key member of the leadership group and has also captained the team when Richie has been injured. We will get the chance to thanks Mils personally for his contribution and commitment to the All Blacks later this year but for now, we congratulate him and wife Hayley on the next exciting adventure.”
Chiefs Coach Ian Foster commented: “Mils has worked hard to get his post–World Cup plans organised and we are pleased that he has secured the option he has wanted. He will be missed by this Franchise, on and off the park, and whilst we know he is clearly focused for us and the World Cup, we wish him, Hayley and son Max well in this new venture.”
Chiefs CEO Gary Dawson also remarked: “Mils has always demonstrated strong leadership and he has been an outstanding role model to our players. His contribution in all aspects of the Franchise has been greatly valued and it is sad to see him go. We fully support his decision and look forward to watching the next stage of his career with real interest.”
One of the best fullbacks in world rugby, Muliaina made his provincial debut for Auckland in 1999, his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2001 and his All Blacks debut against England in 2003.and has been the first-choice fullback since then. In 2004 he was the only player selected for every Test and captained the All Blacks in three Tests in 2009. He jointly holds the All Blacks Test record of 94 with Richie McCaw and has scored 32 tries for 160 points, putting him eighth on the Test try-scoring list and 14th on the all-time Test points-scoring list.
Muliaina played 49 games for the Blues before transferring to Waikato and the Chiefs in 2006 and played his 100th Super Rugby and 50th Chiefs match last month. Muliaina also played for the New Zealand Sevens team from 1999 to 2002, winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal at the 2002 Manchester Games.