Wellington - All Black Hosea Gear has signed with French side Toulouse, New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief Steve Tew said on Friday, playing down fears cashed-up overseas clubs are luring the country's top talent.
Gear, 29, is set to join the French team after completing the Super 15 season with the Highlanders.
Tew said he was sorry to see the winger depart after notching up 14 Tests and scoring six tries for the All Blacks since his debut against Australia in 2008.
"We've been talking to Hosea Gear for a long time, over many years actually," he told RadioSport.
"He's signed a number of one-year extensions so he's always been a risk (of leaving). We respect the decision he's made, he's been a great servant of the game."
Gear is the latest in a string of high-profile All Blacks to accept big-money overseas offers this year, with Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga and Tamati Ellison all Japan-bound and Rene Ranger reportedly mulling an offer to play in France.
Tew dismissed fears of a player exodus, saying the NZRU had kept many of its top stars and was in talks with some former All Blacks who wanted to return to New Zealand.
"We've actually done a lot better job keeping a core group of leading players in this country, both at Test and Super Rugby level, than most people expected, given the crazy opportunities that are available for our guys offshore," he said.
Superstars Dan Carter and Richie McCaw are among the players who have signed on to stay with the All Blacks until the 2015 Rugby World Cup.