Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa has signed on with Irish club Leinster for next season.
The 29-year-old Samoa international will join his new teammates after the Super Rugby Trans Tasman campaign, ending his sixth and final season with the decorated franchise.
Since joining the team from the Waratahs in 2016, he has won three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, as well as last year's inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa, cementing his place as first-choice tighthead, after the departure of All Blacks veteran Owen Franks.
After 89 Crusaders caps, Alaalatoa is eager for the new challenge in Ireland.
"They have enjoyed a lot of success for a long time and have produced a lot of Irish internationals, which speaks highly of their rugby programme and team culture," says Alaalatoa.
"I've been fortunate to work alongside some of the best coaches and players in the world during my time, and it’s brought out the best in me as a player and as an individual.
"As hard as it will be to leave my Crusaders family at the end of the season, I've heard awesome things about Leinster and look forward to the next challenge in my rugby career.
"This is a chance to have an adventure with my young family in Dublin, and I'm really looking forward to getting over there and connecting with the club."
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson acknowledges Alaalatoa's immense contribution over the past six seasons.
"Mike has left his mark on our team, our culture and our scrum," says Robertson. "He is a true professional, who gets the best out of himself and continues to get better."
Born and raised in Sydney, Alaalatoa shone at school and club level, before earning a call-up to the Samoa U20 side that competed at the 2011 world championships.
He made his test debut for Samoa at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, where he played all four pool matches.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is excited to add a player of Alaalatoa's pedigree.
"He is a player with top-quality Super Rugby and international experience, and he is hungry for further success and to play a part in building on the work that is already underway here," says Cullen.
"We have a group of younger props, who will only benefit from his experience, and we believe the wider group will also learn a lot from Michael and his rugby knowledge from playing with the Crusaders, in particular."
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