Andrew Blowers cannot wait to be a Highlander but admits to some butterflies about how New Zealand rugby might have changed.

It is five years since the former All Blacks loose forward last played here.

He has been plying his trade in England, with Northampton, and more recently in Japan, where he is with the Toyota club.

Home was calling and the Highlanders have picked up Blowers in the Super 14 draft.

"I'm really excited. I see joining the Highlanders as a real positive," Blowers said from Japan today.

"When I got the email from coach Greg Cooper saying I was a Highlander, I was delighted. I've talked to Greg and I get a real sense that the team is really going to welcome me.

"I've always wanted to see a bit more of the south, and the Otago rugby lifestyle and culture."

Blowers, 30, played in national age group teams with Anton Oliver and for the Blues with draft prop Nick White, and recalled Josh Blackie from his early days in Auckland.

Otherwise, he knows nothing of the Highlanders players apart from the snippets he has seen on television or read on the internet.

His team and his home stadium will be new next year, and Blowers admitted to some trepidation ahead of his reintroduction to New Zealand rugby.

"Yeah, it's going to be really interesting. I don't really know what to expect," he said.

"The rugby still looks very tough, and if anything, it's probably got quicker since I left. You can see that the contact area is a lot more contested, too."

Blowers said he had no visions of adding to the 11 test caps he earned between 1996 and 1999.

He was famously preferred to Josh Kronfeld for the first test on the 1997 tour of the United Kingdom but his All Blacks career ended after the pool game against Italy at the 1999 World Cup.

Blowers' wife, Gina, and children, Samuel, six, and Stella, three, will stay in Japan, where they live in Nagoya, until the end of January before coming to Dunedin.

Blowers was a standout player in England, where he developed into an athletic and skilled No 8. Life in Japan is slightly more genteel.

He plays alongside former Wellington lock Dion Waller and former Northland first five-eighth Tony Monaghan, with the club allowed two foreigners on the field at one time.

The standard of rugby is better than most expect, Blowers said.

"The Japanese guys are obviously physically smaller but they go at everything at 100 miles an hour and they hit hard. They've got big hearts.

"I'm training two hours at least every day and it's always non-stop."

Blowers said he felt fit and did not think it would be a problem going straight from the Japanese competition into Super 14.