Seilala Mapusua to leave London Irish

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London Irish have announced the departure of their star centre Seilala Mapusua.

The Samoan international will join Japanese league side Kubota Spears this summer, ending his five-year stint at Irish when the current campaign finishes.

Mapusua, 30, has proved to be among the most astute overseas signings in Premiership history since linking up with Irish from Otago Highlanders in 2006.

He played in the 2009 Premiership final when Irish lost by a point to Leicester, and helped the Exiles reach a Heineken Cup semi-final appointment with Toulouse, also at Twickenham.

Mapusua has so far made 111 appearances for Irish, and is a past winner of the prestigious Rugby Players' Association players' player of the year award.

He said: "I will be sad to leave London Irish. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and have made a lot of friends on and off the field.

"I would like to thank everyone for the fantastic way they have treated me and my family.

"I would particularly like to thank the coaches for the opportunities they have given me and the supporters for always being behind me and the squad. We will truly miss London Irish.

"All this said, there is still a little while before I go and there is still a job for me to do here between now and the end of the season.

"My priority right now is to do everything I can to help the team to finish in a top four position in the Premiership and end the season on a high."

Irish head coach Toby Booth hailed Mapusua's contribution at the club, a time when he established himself among the outstanding backs in European rugby.

Booth said: "He has been a tremendous, committed servant to our club, an outstanding professional and an inspiration for any player on the field.

"Seilala is at a stage in his career where he needs to be thinking about his next steps and the future, and we completely respect that.

"While we are obviously disappointed that Seilala will not be with us next season, his departure does however bring opportunities to other London Irish players and to the club in terms of recruiting new talent."