Japan No 8 Kazuki Himeno, one of the stand-out players at last year's World Cup on home ground, has signed a one-year contract with New Zealand's Super Rugby franchise the Highlanders.
Himeno, 26, was a driving force in a solid Japanese team that reached the World Cup quarter-finals where they lost to eventual champions South Africa.
"I thought it was necessary for me now to leave the environment of my comfortable Japan and play from scratch," Himeno said.
The abrasive backrower, able to play all three loose forward positions and also lock, will join up with the Highlanders at the start of preseason in early January 2021 for the in-country Super Rugby Aotearoa.
He will then return to play for Toyota Verblitz which has former All Black head coach Steve Hansen as its director of rugby.
In signing with the Highlanders, based in Dunedin in New Zealand's South Island,Himeno joins an elite band of Japanese players plying their trade for overseas Super Rugby franchises.
He can but hope to follow in the footsteps of Japan scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka, who played 46 games for the Highlanders between 2013-16, quickly becoming a cult hero in rugby-mad Otago.