English loose forward James Haskell admitted that he has wanted to play Super Rugby for a long time and that his immanent move to the Highlanders is a dream come true.
The abrasive forward is currently playing in Japan for Ricoh, and was a little worried that his move to New Zealand wouldn't happen when the news came through that he'd been given the green light.
"I am extremely excited by the opportunity, even if it really hasn't sunk in as I am obviously solely focused on Ricoh, settling in and performing here," Haskell wrote in his MSN Sport column.
"I have always dreamed of playing Super Rugby, but until last week I wasn't sure that I would be able to realise that ambition. Aside from Danny Cipriani [at the Melbourne Rebels and Andy Goode's stint with the Sharks in 2010] this is relatively new territory for English players and things seemed to be going so slowly. So when I got the news I almost allowed myself a rye smile at those who questioned whether I would achieve my goal."
The 26-year-old has been given an early insight into life at the Highlanders from Ricoh teammate Tamati Ellison, who coincidentally has planned to move back to the Otago side next year.
"Tamati [Ellison] moving back should make the transition a little easier for me. At least I will know one of my teammates, and will be able, I hope, to continue to rely on his super wife's cooking, that is already keeping me fuelled in Tokyo," Haskell said.
"The World Cup was a great introduction to life in Dunedin for me and the quiet professional atmosphere is perfect to help me develop my game."
Haskell is relishing the opportunity to be part of the Highlanders as the team moves into a new era at their new stadium and with some fresh blood in the squad.
"The Highlanders are a really exciting team, who are chocked full of great players, along with some special new signings, like Hose Gear and Andrew Hore," he said.
"I'm looking forward to playing with guys like Jimmy Cowen: I've always had the luxury of playing with really dangerous attacking 9's, and Jimmy is the same. He always seems to use his forwards in the game to great effect. Add to that the coaching of Jamie Joseph, who is someone I have wanted to work with for a while."
However, before the verbose Englishman gets too carried away with his move to New Zealand he realises that there is still work to be done in Japan.
"Playing in New Zealand, will no doubt, be the toughest challenge of my career. But I got a reminder of the scale of the task in hand on Saturday when we [Ricoh] lost to Yamaha in a very tiring and hard fought affair. So I think I'll worry about Japan first before starting to think about the Highlanders."
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