All Blacks scrum-half Alby Mathewson will be the Western Force's international marquee signing for next season.
The Force have been in talks with the Auckland Blues No.9 for several weeks.
He will be new Force director of coaching Michael Foley's second signing since taking charge. Foley secured the signature of flanker Chris Alcock from his former club NSW Waratahs last week.
Mathewson will bring much- needed speed to the Force back line when he pairs with overseas development signing, fly-half Sias Ebersohn, who will leave the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs after the South African Currie Cup competition.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time at the Blues but this is a chance for me to challenge myself in a new environment, play a different style of rugby and it’s a prospect that really excites me," Mathewson said.
“The Force are entering a really exciting period with a new coach coming in, and it’s a great chance to be part of building something special and for this playing group to leave a significant legacy at the club.
“They the Force obviously experienced a tough season this year, but sides have shown that things can be turned around quickly and from my discussions with the club things are certainly heading in the right direction."
Foley said Mathewson would help bring balance to his squad.
“As we prepare to relaunch the side, we’ve focused on recruiting some of the best up-and-coming talent," Foley said. "Having Alby join us in a key position like scrum-half will not only add to our performance next season, but also ensure we’re able to develop our young talent to its fullest potential.
“Alby has a good all-round game with attacking skills that allow him to identify and exploit opportunities in the defensive line. Our goal is to play up-tempo rugby that our players and supporters enjoy, and it’s a brand of rugby that will suit Alby’s skills.
“Alby’s been a stalwart at this level for the past six years and will, along with Brett Sheehan, provide us with two very experienced options at scrum-half in 2013.”
Foley will now have to decide whether to retain Josh Holmes, who was signed midway through last season on a short-term contract, or Justin Turner, who has had limited games after being hit by several serious injuries since representing Australia in the 2010 world junior championships.
Last season's first-choice scrum-half Brett Sheehan has already signed a deal for the 2013 season.
The Force still have at least one vacancy in their senior squad of 30 and are expected to fill it with their second overseas development player who would sign for at least two years.
Australian Super Rugby clubs can sign their marquee player only on a one-season contract.
Mathewson, 27, has made four appearances for the All Blacks. He joined the Blues from the Wellington Hurricanes in 2010 and has played more than 80 Super Rugby games. He is off contract with the Blues but is still the starting scrum-half for Auckland's ITM Cup provincial competition side.
He was the 2010 Rebel Sport Super 14 Player of the Year.
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Fly-half Quade Cooper will have scans on his reconstructed right knee after aggravating the joint in the Eden Park Test.