Tonga number eight Nili Latu will leave Newcastle Falcons at the end of the current campaign to return to Japan.
The abrasive number eight has been an ever-present under Dean Richards over the last three seasons and will be sorely missed by the Premiership's most northerly side.
Latu’s hard, direct running and fierce defensive hits have made him a fans’ favourite during his three seasons on Tyneside, the 36-year-old saying: “I’d like to thank every single one of the Falcons supporters for the love they have shown me and my family since we arrived in 2015.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time in Newcastle and it will be sad to leave. The club was involved in a bit of a struggle when I first joined but we have shown a steady improvement, and it gives me a certain happiness to know I’m leaving it in a better place than when I arrived.”
The 36-year-old has made 48 appearances for Falcons to date, helping them secure their highest end of season finish in over two decades.
“It’s down to the dedication and hard work of every single player and staff member, and it’s paying off. I know the boys will kick on even further next season and I’ll be cheering them on from Japan." said Latu.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Nili has led from the front during his three seasons with us and has brought a lot to the club.
“His physicality and leadership shone through from day one, and it is always sad when players move on. I know he will go to Japan with the best wishes of all our players, coaches and supporters, and he can be proud of what he has contributed to Newcastle Falcons during his time with us.”