ALL Blacks legend Ma'a Nonu, a two-time World Cup winner, will make a surprise return to Super Rugby for the 2019 season after signing a one-year contract to play for the Blues.
The 36-year-old centre has been playing for French powerhouse Toulon since the 2015 World Cup but wants to return to New Zealand with wife Andrea and their three children.
Nonu previously played for the Blues in 2012 and 2014 and also spent a season with the Highlanders in 2013.
But the Hurricanes are the club he is synonymous with, having played 126 Super Rugby games for the Wellington based team in 2003-11 and 2015.
The midfielder played 103 Tests for New Zealand between 2003-15 and formed a world-class combination with Conrad Smith.
Nonu has a strong relationship with Blues coach Tana Umaga - his former teammate with Wellington, the Hurricanes and the All Blacks.
"Our review showed that our backline, while talented and exciting, lacked an experienced figure on a regular basis in the midfield due to injury," Umaga said.
"Next season will throw up some other challenges with a new format without the international break.
"And players in line for the World Cup, like Sonny Bill Williams, will likely be monitored more closely."
Umaga added that All Blacks star Rieko Ioane would return to the wing next season after being heavily used in the centres in another disappointing campaign this year.
"We think Ma'a can play an important role for us and I am sure he can deliver on the field as well as help guide our young players," Umaga said.
Nonu said he was grateful for the opportunity to play for the Blues again.
"Hopefully next year will be a year to build and to be successful," he said.
"That is the challenge I am looking forward to.
"I know the Blues have had some tough times in the last few seasons but I am excited to play with some of the young and up-and-coming players who will have long careers and rejuvenate this place.
"And I am looking forward to be under the watchful eye of Tana, who was a mentor when I was coming through, so I am looking forward to doing my best for him and the franchise.
"I have been playing rugby a long time. I've known firsthand the highs and the lows of a playing career on and off the field and I am looking forward to giving my best and proving that I can still play at this level."