Jerome Kaino will return to the Blues from Japanese Top League club Toyota Verblitz, the Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks flanker having signed a two-year contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Auckland franchise.
"Jerome has already proven he is a world-class player so having him back is certainly an exciting development," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said. "After losing Jerome to Japan two years ago, the All Blacks have worked hard to build depth in [the blindside] position and we have seen outstanding performances from the players who have stepped up to the role. Jerome's return will only intensify the contest for the black jersey even more.
"On a general level, Jerome remains a hero for many New Zealand rugby fans, so we are delighted that they will get to see him play his rugby in New Zealand again."
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan knows he has pulled off a huge signing after reports emerged that Kaino was considering joining two-time Super Rugby champions the Chiefs. "We're thrilled to welcome Jerome back to the Blues," Kirwan said. "He's a fantastic player, a great leader and a real Blues man. He's contributed a huge amount to this franchise in his nine previous seasons with the team and is committed to achieving success with the Blues in 2014."
Kaino is understood to have accepted a significant pay cut to return to his homeland, but he says the lure of the black jersey and the potential for another Rugby World Cup campaign had been a huge factor in his decision.
"It has again been a very hard decision to give up the positives of playing in Japan to return to New Zealand rugby and the Blues," he said. "However, after weighing everything up I am very excited I have made the decision and can't wait for the challenges that lay ahead."
Kaino's return is a huge boost for the Blues' loose forwards stocks, and the franchise seems set to deploy his bruising ball-carrying abilities at No.8 given the emergence of Steven Luatua as one of the country's best blindside flankers. Kaino's arrival could spell disaster for Victor Vito at international level, with the Hurricanes back-rower having already fallen behind Luatua and Liam Messam in the pecking order.
The Blues begin Super Rugby pre-season training in mid November, but it is unclear when Kaino will return to New Zealand due to his commitments in Japan.