Experienced former international loose forward Thomas Waldrom has signed with the Wellington Lions for 2018.
Wellington Lions coach Chris Gibbes confirmed on Monday that Waldrom would return to New Zealand following the completion of the Exeter Chiefs season to play in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Gibbes felt Waldrom's experience would be invaluable for the squad as it prepares to return to the Mitre 10 Cup premiership.
"The game is getting young and signing Thomas will provide us with not only what he brings on the field but his experience off it as a seasoned professional and that's exactly what he is," he said.
"That was part of the attraction of bringing a guy like Thomas into our programme."
Waldrom, 34, made 80 appearances for the Wellington Lions before his move to the United Kingdom where he was a big part of the Leicester Tigers success for four seasons while he was also caped four times with England. He has spent the past four seasons playing for the Exeter Chefs.
Gibbes said Waldrom was a "well known icon" of Wellington and New Zealand rugby who has gone overseas and proven himself.
"He wants to come home and play for Wellington and put something back to a place where he started. His form and his game is still there and we are excited to have a guy like that coming back into our programme."
Waldrom believed it was the right time for his family to move back to New Zealand and to get his two young boys into the New Zealand way of living.
"I will hold Exeter as a special place in my heart I have had a great time here, all the coaches and players are great I can’t express how hard it was to leave but family had to come first," he said. "I will enjoy my last few months with them before returning home."
Waldrom still remembered when he put his first Lions jersey on in 2000.
"To be able to put it back on in 2018 will mean as much to me as it did to me then. It would be awesome to have my two boys watching me where I first started my professional career.
"I have had a lot of great memories when I was with the Lions playing with so many of the great players that have worn the Wellington Lions jersey.
"Coming back to where it has all started for me is going to be special and a challenge, one that I’m looking forward to. I will be able to pass on a lot of the experience I have built up while I have been away to the young lads."
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