Pau - New Zealand's double world champion Conrad Smith says he's impatient to make his debut with French side Pau this weekend but concedes he's struggling to pick up the local language.
The veteran 94-times capped centre, who has agreed a two-year deal, only arrived in the Pyrenean city on Monday, but starts against Newport-Gwent in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday.
His debut comes two months after he helped eventual winners New Zealand crush France 62-13 in the World Cup quarter-finals in Cardiff.
And he displayed the skill of a seasoned diplomat when asked at his official unveiling on Thursday what he thought about the state of French rugby.
"I've always been a fan of French rugby, I respect the national team a lot, they've given us a lot of trouble and are gifted with wonderful players," he said.
"I appreciate it might be difficult after the last result but there is a wonderful culture of rugby here."
Smith is joined at the Top 14 side -- back in the top flight for the first time in nine years - by compatriot and fellow World Cup-winner Colin Slade with their new employers hoping the pair's influence will help turn their struggling fortunes around.
With the financial backing of petroleum giant Total, Pau have also boosted their international brigade with lock forward Julien Pierre, Irish back-rowers Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler as well as Scottish prop Euan Murray.
Expectations are high but Smith, who was also part of the All Blacks' 2011 World Cup-winning team, says he's taking that in his stride.
"I've dealt with expectations a lot being with the All Blacks, you realise you can only do your job. I'll just be concentrating on what I can do to help the team.
"It'll take time but I'm impatient. I've continued training since the World Cup."
He added: "This has been a long time coming, I signed at the end of last year."
He said he was excited at this latest challenge on the pitch, while off it he is trying to get to grips with speaking French.
"I've always wanted to learn another language, I've been having lessons all year. It's very fast, and quite overwhelming, but I'm certainly committed to learning the language."