Harlequins have confirmed that lock forward Nick Kennedy has joined the Twickenham Stoop outfit from Toulon and will link up with them on July 22.
Kennedy who finished last season as a member of Toulon's Heineken Cup-winning team and by playing in the final of the Top 14, is regarded as one of the finest second-rows in Europe.
An outstanding basketball player during his time at Portsmouth University where he studied Sports Science, the Southampton born player's first break in professional rugby came when he wrote to Conor O'Shea, the then London Irish Director of Rugby, looking for a trial.
He joined the club and soon had a big impact; he made his senior debut for the Exiles in November 2002 and went on to record 219 appearances during which he was acknowledged among the best line-out specialists in the Premiership. He joined Toulon in 2012. He was awarded his first cap for England in 2008 and has since made seven international appearances.
"We are delighted that Nick has decided to join Harlequins," said Harlequins Director of Rugby, Conor O'Shea, when announcing the deal.
"In doing so he has sacrificed a valuable contract at Toulon to return to England where he feels he has unfinished business. His ambition is pretty clear in that he wants to win the Aviva Premiership and force his way back into the England squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
"I've known him since he came to professional rugby and I know that in Nick we have a player and a person who will fit into what this club is all about," O'Shea continued.
"Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leading lineout specialists in the country, he is physically strong, mobile and skilful and his game has benefited greatly from his stint in Toulon.
"The retirement of Olly Kohn came as a surprise and we felt, despite the young talent we have in Charlie Matthews (21), George Merrick (20) and Sam Twomey (21), we needed to replace Olly's experience within the squad given the level of competition we face week in, week out."
"There will be real competition now among our second rows with Nick's signing and the young guys really pushing for selection. Charlie, George (Robson) and Nick may have a headstart on Sam and George but they will push each other and make us better."
Commenting on his decision to sign for Harlequins, Nick Kennedy said: "I've had a memorable year in the south of France and winning the Heineken Cup with Toulon will rank among the highlights of my career.
"The opportunity to return to England and join Harlequins has come at the right time for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge and to being part of an exciting squad of talented players. I would like to thank Toulon for releasing me and for their support during my time in France."