Brad Thorn will play with New Zealand franchise the Highlanders in the next Super 15 competition, ruling out a return to Leinster for the latter stages of the Heineken Cup.

The 37-year-old Dunedin native is coming the end of a stint with Fukuoka Sanix Blues in Japan and it was announced today that he will link up with the Highlanders ahead of the start of the new Super 15 season in February.

Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Ma’a Nonu have also recently committed to the Otago-based franchise.

Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph said: "Brad brings a great deal of professionalism to any team he plays for. 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."

Thorn made a crucial impact for Leinster in the latter half of their Heineken Cup campaign last season, bolstering a pack which was struggling in the wake of the departure of Nathan Hines.
The second row position has been seen as a problem for Leinster again this season.

Ireland international Devin Toner has been out of favour of late with captain Leo Cullen and former Connacht player Damian Browne currently filling the starting roles.

South African 21-year-old Quinn Roux and Irish qualified former Leeds Carnegie player Tom Denton, 24, are also vying for playing time.