England back-row forward James Haskell has agreed to join New Zealand outfit Otago Highlanders to play in the Super 15 next season, just days after Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said he was "not on the list of available players at the moment so we can't pick him."
Haskell, who was part of England's World Cup squad, is one of 28 new names included in the five New Zealand franchises announced on Wednesday. He will head back to New Zealand after a stint at Japan's Ricoh Black Rams, and will then return to England to rejoin former club London Wasps in time for the 2012/13 Premiership season.
"I have always wanted to test myself in a new environment and in a new culture, both as player and as an individual," he explained.
"I think it will help me in my desire to improve and become a better player for England.
"The move to New Zealand and playing with some of the best players in the world in the country which holds the World Cup is another important step in that direction. That is the ultimate playing environment."
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph welcomed the imminent arrival of the 42-Test man.
"He's a good footy player and also a bit of a character," he said, "He's played in France, he's in Japan, money wasn't an issue so he's coming down here to play rugby. He wants to come down and have a go.
"He gives us tremendous flexibility on our bench. He can play in all three loose forward positions. We have that ability now not to have to play guys week in and week out, as we had to do last season."