MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui has made a surprise return to southern hemisphere rugby by signing with Western Force in Australia's domestic Super Rugby AU competition.
The 35-year-old centre has been based in Japan for the past seven years and captained Tokyo-based side Toshiba Brave Lupus since 2017/18.
“With 68 Super Rugby caps and a number of domestic and international honours to his name, Kahui is another quality signing for us,” Force Head of Rugby Matt Hodgson said in a statement on Tuesday.
"His knowledge of the game, defensive ability and the level of professionalism he brings to training will be huge for our season, we can’t wait to see him out there in the blue and black."
Kahui played 18 tests for the All Blacks, including the 2011 World Cup final win over France on home soil where he was a starting winger, but his playing career in New Zealand was blighted by injury.
He was also part of the Waikato Chiefs' 2012 Super Rugby title-winning campaign and joins another former All Black, lock Jeremy Thrush, at the Tim Sampson-coached Force.
The Force, who are back playing against Australia's top professional sides three years after being axed from Super Rugby, lost their opening match of the domestic tournament 23-14 to the New South Wales Waratahs.
The Perth-based team said Kahui had already joined them at their Hunter Valley hub in New South Wales. He served a mandatory quarantine period after arriving in Australia to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Force have recruited a slew of internationals in recent weeks, including former Wallabies props Greg Holmes and Pek Cowan.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)