Chris Masoe was often regarded as the third member of the fearsome loose forward trio that terrorised Super Rugby in the mid-2000s.
Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo were the more famous of the Hurricanes' three "bouncers" as they became known in their pomp.
Together these rugby warriors created mayhem, crashing into rucks, poleaxing attackers and running at, rather than around, defenders.
But where Masoe has differed from his two partners in crime is that his body has remained a willing participant for all of the years since he headed offshore.
As their All Black careers wound down, both So'oialo and Collins hit the wall, no surprise considering the physical sacrifice they had given to various jerseys over a prolonged period.
So'oialo eventually succumbed to a chronic back injury and headed to Japan last year where he has played a limited onfield role for Honda.
Though he is keen to play on, a role imparting his mana and knowledge as a coach may be a more likely outcome in years to come.
And after churning through three seasons with Ospreys in Wales, Collins has also found his way to the less physically demanding Japanese Top League.
"JC" is still playing some decent enough rugby for Yamaha and with Collins, nothing seems impossible.
And Masoe? Well the 33-year-old is in the form of his life, named last week as the French Top 14 player of the year and in the first year of a three-year deal with glamour club Toulon.
"To receive the Top 14 award on Monday night was an honour, it's a dream come true for me to be playing over here," he told The Dominion Post yesterday. "I love it here.
"It's a bit of both, on and off the field. It is an awesome lifestyle, the food is amazing, the people are really nice and the rugby is the sort of rugby I love."
In fact, over four seasons Masoe forged a place as one of France's best and most consistent players as he lifted Castres' to new heights and took on cult status in the Midi-Pyrenees region.
"I've always enjoyed the physical side of rugby and that style is what you get here," he said. "I still love playing, this is what I love to do and when I came to France I still felt I was at the peak of my time. I wasn't looking for a holiday."
In fact, Masoe, like Collins, bowed out of test rugby after the heartbreaking quarterfinal loss to France, in Cardiff, in 2007.
It's not a chapter he wants to relive, but does he wonder if he could have added to his 20 tests, perhaps even stuck around until the next World Cup?
"A lot of people ask me that, do I regret leaving because I could have played more tests? I don't regret anything. I will always be a member of that All Blacks family, but it was the right time when I left," he said.
"It was an honour for me to play for Taranaki, Wellington, the Hurricanes and then the All Blacks, but in life you have to move on and if I hadn't, then a lot of other good things might not have happened."
Cest la vie indeed.
What Masoe can confirm is his belief that France's Top 14 is on a par with Super Rugby.
"The physicality is the big thing. There are guys from all around the world, the French, the Georgians, they're very physical.
"At the end of day it's the same size field, same rugby ball and then the Heineken Cup is another level again."
He remains in contact with both Collins and So'oialo through Facebook and former Wellington and Hurricanes team-mate David Smith is one of his new team-mates at Toulon where he's forged a reputation as a singer of some note.
Masoe said he and his partner Gemma may well remain in France when his playing days are over, though both will always consider New Zealand to be home.
The recent playing CVs of So'oialo and Collins have tailed off somewhat from their heydays.
Both are in the second year of two-year deals, but Wellington-based manager Tim Castle makes it clear neither man is planing to hang up his boots just yet.
Collins plays primarily as a blindside for Yamaha. He's based in Nagoya and part of a stable that also includes former All Black Mose Tuiali'i.
With only two foreigners allowed on the field at one time, that means game time isn't as regular as Collins would prefer, but it may provide some recovery time for the next chapter of his colourful career.
So'oialo has been based in Suzuka since gaining an early release from his NZRU contract in June 2011.
Honda's impressive training base is adjacent to the Formula One track and facilities, but their results haven't matched and they were relegated this season to the second tier competition.
Castle says So'oialo is "totally injury free" and enjoying his rugby, though reports out of Japan suggest he's had limited game time for one reason or another.
Whatever the case, one of the more highly regarded individuals to have worn the black jersey is also pursing a career in coaching and he is working towards various certificates.
CHRIS MASOE Age: 33 Born: Savaii, Samoa Lives: Toulon Current team: Toulon All Blacks: 20 tests Debut: 2005 v Wales at Cardiff Last test: 2007 v France at Cardiff Career since leaving NZ: Castres (2008-2011), Toulon (2012-)
JERRY COLLINS Age: 31 Born: Apia, Samoa Lives: Nagoya Current team: Yamaha All Blacks: 48 tests (three as captain) Debut: 2001 v Argentina at Christchurch Last test: 2007 v France at Cardiff Career since leaving NZ: Toulon (2008-09), Ospreys (2009-2011), Yamaha (2011-2012)
RODNEY SO'OIALO Age: 33 Born: Moto'otua, Samoa Lives: Suzuka Current team: Honda Heat All Blacks career: 62 tests (five as captain). Debut: 2002 v Wales at Cardiff. Last test: 2009 v Italy at Milan. Career since leaving NZ: Honda Heat (2011-2012).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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