WELLINGTON (Reuters) - World Cup-winning loose forward Jerome Kaino is returning to New Zealand after two seasons in Japan with an eye on reclaiming his All Blacks spot for their Webb Ellis trophy defence in England in 2015.
Kaino played every minute of the All Blacks' games in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and was one of their standout performers before he joined Japanese club Toyota on a reported NZ$1 million ($829,200) per season deal.
The bruising 30-year-old, however, made no secret of his wish to return to New Zealand in an effort to try to regain his place in the All Blacks and his re-signing with the NZRU and Super Rugby's Auckland Blues had been widely expected.
"Hey guys I can confirm I have signed with the NZRU & Blues for 2014/15, very excited about the challenge ahead," Kaino said on his Twitter feed on Friday.
"But for now, it's back to business for Toyota Verblitz, who have been amazing and would love return someday!"
Kaino has played 48 tests for the All Blacks since his debut in 2006 and after some scratchy performances early in his test career developed into a tenacious defender and battering runner with the ball in a world-class loose forward combination with Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
The All Blacks initially struggled to replace his physicality at blindside flanker before Liam Messam changed his instinctively open-style into a more tightly-focussed approach, while Steven Luatua has also impressed in his rookie international season this year.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)