One of the NRL's most prized front-rowers is reportedly switching to rugby union to escape the sport's vaccine mandate.
Fox Sports believes Melbourne Storm and Kiwis prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is on the verge of signing with Robbie Deans' Saitama Wild Knights for the 2023 Japanese League One season.
The two-time NRL title-winner has been a vocal opponent of Covid-19 vaccines and, as a result, has been excluded from the Storm's pre-season training sessions over the summer.
Storm captain and fellow Kiwis representative Jesse Bromwich revealed last month that his calls to Asofa-Solomona were going unreturned and he was worried for his future.
"A lot of us boys care deeply for him and I've tried to reach out to him but I didn't get anything back," Bromwich told Wide World of Sports.
"I know he's got his beliefs around vaccination and it's up to him but we really want him to come back. So hopefully the matter resolves itself soon."
Now, it seems Asofa-Solomona has found a way to remain a professional sportsperson without having to undergo any vaccinations.
Rugby in Japan is governed by the country's overall vaccination laws, where mandates are a distant memory from the 20th century. As a result, Asofa-Solomona would be free to play.
However, despite playing rugby as a teenager, Asofa-Solomona has a glaring lack of experience in the code at a professional level and would surely require an extended period of training and experience at lower grades. It is currently unclear how he could undertake this crucial step before the 2023 season begins.
Asofa-Solomona signed with the Melbourne Storm as a 15-year-old and has accumulated 141 appearances for the club since, alongside six caps for the Kiwis.