Highlanders' Liam Squire latest All Blacks player to head overseas

Liam Squire is the latest All Blacks player to confirm he is leaving New Zealand after this year's Rugby World Cup, with the loose forward confirming he has agreed to join Japanese club NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.

The 27-year-old, who has signed a two-year contract, had been expected to sign with a Japanese club after battling a series of niggling injuries that curtailed his appearances for the All Blacks and Highlanders.

When fit, Squire has been the All Blacks first-choice blindside flanker since 2017.

"It seems like the right time to go," Squire said in a Highlanders' statement on Monday.

"I have really loved my time in New Zealand ... and in particular down here with the Highlanders, it's a club that gave me a chance and I appreciate the support I have had."

Squire was surprise selection for the All Blacks in 2016 but quickly developed into a world-class loose forward with his bruising defence, ball handling and speed.

"Liam has grown into an outstanding rugby player since coming into the All Blacks in 2016 and we again look forward to seeing how he goes this year," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"His physicality, pace and skills are a real point of difference and he's a really well-rounded player."

Injuries to his knees, hands and shoulders, however, have denied him a consistent run in the All Blacks No. 6 jersey and he appeared only eight times in 2018. He has played in 26 Tests since his 2016 debut.

Squire's Highlanders teammate Ben Smith (Pau) as well as Hurricanes winger Nehe Milner-Skudder (Toulon) and Crusaders prop Owen Franks (Northampton) have already confirmed they will leave New Zealand after the Sept. 20-Nov. 2 World Cup in Japan.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read has also said he would be leaving New Zealand but has not confirmed his destination, while Jordan Taufua (Leicester), Matt Proctor (Northampton) and Jeff Toomaga-Allen (Wasps) are also heading offshore.

Coach Hansen has also said he is stepping down after the World Cup.