LEINSTER player Isa Nacewa is to retire and return to New Zealand at the end of the season, it has emerged today.
The popular sportsman who won three Heineken Cups with the Leinster team has decided to return to Auckland for family reasons.
The former Fiji international (30) has played with Leinster for five years.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said: "I've known Isa for a number of years. He's universally respected due to the quality of his character, his athleticism, skill and commitment.
"He has been great value for us, not just on the field where he has provided a string of highlights but off the field also, where he has contributed enormously to the development of the players around him."
"He's hugely popular amongst supporters and hopefully they will enjoy a few more outstanding performances from Isa in the coming weeks."
The skillful back will return home with his wife Simone and his Irish-born children, three year old twins Mia and Ellie, and one-year-old Lucy.
It is understood that Nacewa has another year remaining on his contract with last year's European champions but that Leinster have been aware of his plans for some time.
It is also reported that Leinster management attempted to change the player's mind on a number of occasions - particularly in the wake of Jonny Sexton's move to France as Nacewa has played out-half for the province regularly in the past - but the player wanted to return home and retire.
Nacewa - whose one cap for Fiji arguably denied him a stint in the Ireland team as he would have been eligible because of his long stay here - had indicated previously that his wife would decide where she wanted their children to go to school.
However, the loss of the player will be a huge to the province.
Since making his Heineken Cup debut as a substitute against Castres, he has started the last 37 consecutive games in the competition.
It means with Sexton departing for France, Andrew Conway leaving for Munster and Fionn Carr returning to Connacht, the Leinster backline will need an overhaul in the summer.
Leinster said today they expect to announce news of a new signing in the coming weeks.
Despite suffering some injuries this season, Nacewa has played 116 games in his five seasons with Leinster.
In 2011 Nacewa was named both the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association (IRUPA) and the Leinster Rugby Bank of Ireland Player of the Year, as well as being chosen as full-back on the 'PRO12 Dream Team' for 2011 and was shortlised for the ERC European Player of the Year.