Hurricanes back-rower Brad Shields has confirmed the worst kept secret in New Zealand rugby, announcing his move to Wasps and, down the track, a potential Test call-up with England.
Shields' future had been a leading topic of discussion in rugby circles in New Zealand for much of the year, and it only increased last week when the All Blacks required a replacement for the injured Jerome Kaino in Europe.
And Shields on Monday confirmed why he wasn't that replacement via a Hurricanes media release, the 26-year-old forward set to join last season's Premiership finalists after the 2018 Super Rugby season.
"It's good to have my playing future confirmed nice and early so I can focus 100 percent on the Hurricanes," Shields said. "I'm passionate about the Hurricanes and I'll be doing everything I can to make sure I give everything I've got to my final season at the club."
Shields was part of the Hurricanes' Super Rugby title triumph in 2016 and had been mentioned in All Blacks discussions ever since. He was also a part of the 2011 New Zealand Under 20 team which won the Junior World Championship.
But his path to the All Blacks had long been blocked by the likes of skipper Kieran Read and Kaino, and more recently the emergence of Vaea Fifita and Liam Squire, leaving Shields to consider a future with England whom he qualifies for through his parents.
Currently sitting on 86 Hurricanes caps, Shields could foreseeably bring up a century of Super Rugby starts should be play all but two of the Wellington-based franchise's regular season games next year.
"His professionalism in our environment day in day out, and his consistency on the field, has been a valuable asset to the club and I'm sure he will be a major influence again in 2018," Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said.
"We will miss having Brad as part of the set up next season, but we are pleased for him and his family that they have secured the next chapter of their lives in England."
Shields most recently captained Wellington to the Mitre 10 Cup Championship, a title that earned the franchise promotion back to the Premiership division in 2018.
Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young believes Shields' versatility makes him set to be successful at the Premiership side.
"Alongside his natural talent, Brad is recognised for his immense physicality and high work-rate," he said. "He has made a number of eye-catching performances, particularly at No. 8, but his versatility to play at six will also be beneficial to the squad.
"We look forward to welcoming him to the club next season and I'm sure he will prove himself a valuable addition to the strong pool of talent we already have in our back-row."