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The powerful Otago loose forward has signed with the Crusaders, where he looms as a potential replacement for Argentinian international Pablo Matera, who made a big impact for the Super Rugby Pacific champions this season.
Lio-Willie had an injury-hampered season but appeared in two games for the Highlanders and made quite an impression.
His ability to punch through tackles certainly did not go unnoticed further north.
While his departure will be sorely felt, Lio-Willie is still raw at Super Rugby level and the Highlanders have two hard-running loose forwards in Shannon Frizell and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, so are well-served in that department.
Lio-Willie plays his club rugby for Kaikorai and is contracted with Otago. He is injured at present and is expected to miss the opening rounds of the NPC.
The 23-year-old has a very promising career ahead but also has a really good fallback option.
He is a qualified dental surgeon and joked with the Otago Daily Times late last year he had "the skills to take teeth out painlessly".
His absence is a bit of a kick in the teeth for the Highlanders but a wonderful opportunity for a clever young man with a bright future.
Highlanders under-20 halfback Noah Hotham is rumoured to have signed with the Crusaders as well.