Brodie Retallick will join the growing list of All Blacks heading to Japan after the Rugby World Cup in France, with the New Zealand lock having signed up for a second stint with the Kobelco Steelers.
Retallick's 2024 plans were confirmed on Wednesday, a day after veteran All Black backs Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett announced deals with Toyota in Japan's top flight.
Regarded as one of New Zealand's finest locks, 100-test Retallick will play his last season with the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby this year and push for selection at a third World Cup in France.
The former World Rugby Player of the Year played for the Steelers in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster paid tribute to the 31-year-old from north Canterbury.
"Brodie is a special person who continues to contribute a massive amount to the All Blacks," he said in a statement.
"I'm pleased he has been able to secure his next step in life. But I’m also fully confident that he will remain 100% focused on what we need to achieve this year."
Meanwhile Scott Robertson, widely tipped to succeed Ian Foster as All Blacks coach after this year's World Cup, said he was expecting an announcement about his future in the New Zealand coaching structure over the next few days.
The 48-year-old has enjoyed huge success at the Crusaders and was lined up to replace Foster when the All Blacks hit a slump last season.
Foster's job was saved when New Zealand beat South Africa at Ellis Park in August but Robertson said he expected some public announcement of the succession plan from New Zealand Rugby (NZR) before the start of the Super Rugby season.
"It's one of those times I'm just waiting for NZR to make the announcements really," said Robertson.
"Hopefully we know in the next few days."
New Zealand Rugby appeared to be caught on the hop by Robertson's comments and later released a statement saying "an announcement about the All Blacks head coach or process is not imminent".
NZR's next board meeting is on 23 February, a day before the Crusaders kick off the new season against the Chiefs.