All Black legend Brad Thorn will return to New Zealand next year. He has signed a one-year contract with the Highlanders for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
The Highlanders confirmed the move on Thursday.
The Otago-born Thorn, who was an influential member of the 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks, has been playing for Fukuoka Sanix Blues in Japan's Top League.
He joins the Highlanders early in the new year to begin preparation for the coming season.
Thorn has a decorated professional sporting career - including success in the National Rugby League in Australia with the Brisbane Broncos and Queensland, Super Rugby with the Crusaders, and more recently with Irish rugby province Leinster, who lifted the European Cup. And, of course, there are his Tri-Nations and World Cup wins with New Zealand.
He debuted for the All Blacks in 2003, and played 59 Tests, with the World Cup win over France last year his final appearance in the black jersey.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, who recently returned from a visit to Japan, believes Thorn's inclusion will be invaluable for the Highlanders' 2013 campaign.
"Brad brings a great deal of professionalism to any team he plays for," Joseph said.
"His work ethic, experience and leadership will add a great deal to our team and have a very positive influence on the younger players.
"Brad is a very competitive athlete and from what I saw in Japan recently he is still playing rugby at an international standard."
"We talk a lot about the culture at the Highlanders and Brad is a perfect fit, both on and off the field," Joseph added.
Highlanders General Manager Roger Clark commented that securing a player like Brad Thorn was great for the team, but also the franchise region as a whole.
"Brad started his rugby career in Mosgiel and he still has family in the region," Clark said.
"A player of his calibre returning to offer something back to the region shows the kind of player and person he is.
"It's also a reflection of the progress the franchise has made over the past couple of years."
New Zealand Rugby Union General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said: "This is exciting news for Highlanders fans and for rugby fans.
"Brad is an incredible athlete and professional who commands a lot of respect on and off the field because of his attitude and work rate.
"We're rapt to have Brad, Mary-Anne and the family back in New Zealand and we're looking forward to seeing him in action in the 2013 Super Rugby season."
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