Rugby

Smith joins NZ exodus to France

2015-02-05 20:31
Conrad Smith (AFP)

Paris - All Blacks centre Conrad Smith signed up for French second division leaders Pau on Thursday, becoming the third New Zealand player to switch to France after this year's Rugby World Cup.

The 33-year-old, the most-capped All Blacks centre with 85 games, having scored 25 tries, and part of the 2011 World Cup winning squad, penned a two-year deal.

The current Hurricanes captain will be playing alongside compatriot Simon Mannix at the ambitious south-western club who are well-placed for promotion to the Top 14 boasting a 14-point lead over their promotion rivals.

"I have loved my time playing rugby in New Zealand and really looking forward to what will be my last season here, but it feels like the right time for me move on and try something different," Smith said in a statement released by the All Blacks.

"Having a stint in France will allow me to spend more time as a husband and father, which was the main motivation for me when I made the decision."

All Blacks star fly-half Dan Carter has already said he will quit New Zealand rugby after the September 18-October 31 World Cup.

He has signed a three-year contract with Racing-Metro while fellow centre Ma'a Nonu will play two seasons at champions Toulon.

"On behalf of the All Blacks, I want to publicly acknowledge the outstanding contribution Conrad has made  and continues to make - to the All Blacks," said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.

"He is a world-class player and leader in our team and we look forward to that continuing this season. We in the All Blacks wish both Conrad and his wife all the very best for their new adventures next season."

Smith's decision to play in France means he will rule himself out of All Blacks contention.

However, with Pau backed by the mighty Total oil company, the financial compensation for a player who scored his first international try with his first touch of the ball against Italy in November 2004 will cushion the blow.

"We have realised our dreams," said Pau president, Bernard Pontneau who had also convinced former Munster back row Sean Dougall to join last year.

"Conrad Smith isn't expensive, he cost less than some other players who are not so high profile."

Read more on:    paul  |  all blacks  |  rwc 2015  |  conrad smith  |  rugby
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