Wellington captain Brad Shields says he will forever treasure his time in the Lions jersey.
Shields announced today he will be leaving New Zealand Rugby at the conclusion of the Hurricanes 2018 Investec Super Rugby campaign after signing up to play for Wasps in England.
That means the Lions thrilling over-time Mitre 10 Cup Championship final win over Bay of Plenty last month was likely to have been Shields last match for Wellington after seven years representing his province.
"I've always been very proud to wear the Wellington colours and to have the opportunity to represent my province, my club and my family for the last seven years has been a real privilege," he said.
"Winning the final this year and knowing it could be my last match was an emotional occasion and being able to help put the union back into the Premiership where it belongs is an achievement I'll always treasure.
"I would like to thank Wellington Rugby for all they have done for myself and my family over the years and also to acknowledge the players and coaches I have worked with. I've loved every minute."
The 26-year-old Petone loose forward has played 60 matches for the Lions since his debut in 2010 and captained the team to the Mitre 10 Cup Championship title in 2017 to gain promotion to the Premiership.
Wellington Rugby chief executive Steve Rogers said Shields had made a significant contribution to the province on and off the field over a considerable amount of time.
"Brad's leadership over several seasons has been inspirational and an example to our younger players coming through both on and off the field," Rogers said. "His loyalty and service to the province has been unwavering and there is no doubt he has left a lasting impression on the next generation of Lions."
Wellington Rugby wished Shields well for the next chapter of his career, Rogers said.
"Brad will undoubtedly be missed next season, but everybody at Wellington Rugby wishes him and his family all the best in England."