Rugby: Money makes Miller a Japan man

Paul Miller at Hancock Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Paul Miller at Hancock Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
As a player, Paul Miller is straight and direct. It is the same when he talks about why he plies is trade in Japan.

The former All Black and Highlanders No 8 has been back in Dunedin for the past couple of months resting up, enjoying a bit of down time with his family and helping out at his old club, Pirates.

But next month he heads back to Japan for his fourth season with the Kurita Water Industries team based in Sagamihara, just south of Tokyo.

Miller (31) is signed on for another two years with a side that plays a division down from the top league.

"To be honest, I'm over there as it is a faster way to save for my retirement," Miller said.

"I'm probably earning over there three to four times what I could get here. People can dress it up about the culture and the lifestyle, but the biggest thing is about the money."

Miller said he did enjoy the lifestyle, and his family - wife Bronwyn and children Mya (6) and Max (20 months) - now lived in a house instead of an apartment, as they had when they first arrived in 2006.

"It is pretty much a luxury to have a house, so we are lucky. That makes life a lot easier. The Japanese people are nice and polite and make you feel welcome. The language barrier is probably the biggest difficulty."

He said he had talked to Highlanders coach Glenn Moore last year about coming back to play rugby in New Zealand but Moore had not got back to him.

"But that doesn't worry me. I'm quite happy where I am now. I'm not ready to come back yet."

Miller is part of a big group of New Zealanders playing in Japan, and he says everyone keeps in touch.

He lives not far from where the Mitsubishi factory team is based, where former All Black Troy Flavell played, while former Otago lock and trainer Brendon Timmins is now the Mitsubishi side's trainer.

Miller was pleased with his game and he had suffered no injuries while in Japan.

"I think I've got a bit fitter and a bit wiser. It's probably not quite as physical as over here. You're not going up against big 115kg guys every week, so that makes it a bit easier on the body."

Miller, who made two appearances for the All Blacks on tour in 2001, said the standard of play in the division his side was in was probably similar to the Air New Zealand Cup.

Former sevens star Craig de Goldi played in his team, as did former Southland back Phil Dawson.

The side was limited to playing two foreign-based players.

Miller said Japanese teams wanted foreigners who were big loose forwards or talented inside backs, but the Japanese players were getting more skilful and more rugby wise.

Miller said he would be back in Dunedin when his playing days were over, keen to get back to Hancock Park and the Pirates club.

He had taken the pre-season training for the club this year and even had a run for the side in a pre-season trial on Sunday.

But he would not be donning the skull and crossbones again before he headed north, saying he could not afford to get injured.