The Highlanders have announced that hooker Liam Coltman will leave the franchise at the end of the season to sign for French side Lyon.
Coltman has become one of the team’s great players, making his debut for the ‘Landers in 2013 and remaining with the side for almost a decade.
Following the confirmation of Blues prop Karl Tu’inukuafe’s departure to Montpellier, the hooker has become the latest All Black to go overseas and move to the Top 14.
He joins ex-Highlander Lima Sopoaga at Lyon, a squad that also boasts former Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai and back-row forward Jordan Taufua, who used to ply his trade with the Crusaders.
“I feel the time is right for me and my family to have some new adventures and we are looking forward to spending time in another country and all the experiences and challenges that will bring.
I will always be a Highlander at heart, no matter where I am,” Coltman said.
The 32-year-old has been a consistent performer for the Highlanders over the years and was rewarded for his form with a New Zealand debut in 2016.
Coltman would go on to earn eight caps for the All Blacks and was included in the squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“We like our players to be Highlander men and to demonstrate what that means on daily basis. Colty will always spring to my mind as a player that I would call a Highlander man,” head coach Tony Brown said.
“Since day one and throughout his entire time with the club he has been the consummate professional.
“He prepares well every week and consistently delivers a 100% effort every time he takes the field. As a coach you can’t ask for more than that.
“Off the field young players need only look to him to see how you professionally manage a decade-plus rugby career.
He has earned the respect of his fellow players, coaches, and everybody at this club for his approach and of course he does it all with a smile.”
CEO Roger Clark added: “Rain, hail or shine you could always count on Colty to have a smile on his face and be giving it everything in training or playing.
“To play for over 10 years in the front-row for one team is an extraordinary effort and as a club we recognise how fortunate we have been to have Colty for such a long period of time.
“As a club we acknowledge the significant positive contribution he has made and we wish him, his wife Aleisha and children Ruby and Tilly all the very best in France”.-Planet rugby