Australian winger Nick Cummins, known as the 'Honey Badger', is to move to play rugby in Japan after being released early from his Australian contract on compassionate grounds.

The move means Cummins will miss next year’s World Cup.

In a posting on his Facebook wall, Cummins said that his family was “enduring some extremely difficult times in terms of their health and wellbeing” and that the move to Japan would “hopefully provide me with the opportunity to give back to and provide some clarity for my family during this difficult time”.

The Australian Rugby Union said that Cummins would be missed.

“Due to his unique and extreme personal circumstances, we have reluctantly made a decision to grant Nick an early release from his current contract based on compassionate grounds,” said Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.

“We wish him well for the future on and off the field and he is aware that we – and Rugby fans across Australia who have embraced him as the ‘Honey Badger’ – would love to see him back in Australia in the future.”

Famed for a shock of curly hair, ferocious style of play and laid-back attitude, Cummins has been a stand-out character for the Wallabies since making his debut in 2012, and has scored six tries in his 15 Tests.

Cummins and the ARU did not elaborate on the nature of his family’s health concerns.

Cummins is one of eight children, two of whom have cystic fibrosis. His father is also known to suffer from ill health.