Highlanders and All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo will leave New Zealand rugby at the end of the year to join English club London Irish.
The 28-year-old, who has scored 16 tries in 26 tests, was part of New Zealand’s victorious World Cup campaign in 2015 and will look to help Steve Hansen’s side in the title defence in Japan this year.
Naholo, who has regularly shown his deceptive speed and strength to trouble opposing teams, has also won a Super Rugby crown with the Highlanders in 2015 and remains the franchise’s all-time leading try scorer with 41.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of playing in the UK but I’m still very much focused on the present and want to work really hard with the Highlanders to ensure we finish our season on a high,” Naholo said.
“I’m very appreciative of everything the club has done for me and our fans are the best in the world. I also have other goals I’d like to achieve with the All Blacks in 2019, and I know our Highlanders fans will be right behind me all the way.”
Naholo has endured a difficult campaign with the Highlanders this year and has not played since suffering a knee injury in training last month.
But Hansen expects the player to force his way into World Cup contention.
“Waisake is a special member of the All Blacks group. He’s an exciting player who brings an infectious sense of energy and humour to the team environment,” Hansen said.
“While we look forward to seeing him in action in New Zealand in 2019, we wish him well for his future ventures.”
London Irish have also signed international players Sekope Kepu and Paddy Jackson since securing promotion back to the Premiership next season.