Wellington - -Former All Blacks wing Zac Guildford has signed a two-year deal
with an option for a third with Top 14 leaders Clermont, the French club
confirmed on Thursday.
Guildford, who is in his prime at 24 but
has struggled with alcohol problems, will move to France after this
year's Super 15 season.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us
to enrich our team with a player of such talent and
versatility,"Clermont backs coach Franck Azema said.
"Like all the
All Blacks we have in our ranks, we believe that he will bring us a bit
of his culture, his feel for the movement of the game, which we want to
continue to develop.
"Everyone knows his ability, technique,
speed or the explosiveness that he can bring to the attacking line and
we're really happy to offer him a new challenge and a first experience
Guildford becomes Clermont's fifth recruit for next
season after forward Sebastien Vahaamahina, centre Jonathan Davies,
hooker John Ulugia and eighthman Fritz Lee.
New Zealand has a
policy of not selecting foreign-based players for the All Blacks,
meaning the switch could effectively end Guildford's international
He played the last of his 10 Tests for New Zealand in mid-2012.
alcohol problems first emerged publicly when he was reprimanded by All
Blacks' management during their 2011 World Cup campaign.
weeks later, after New Zealand had won the tournament, he had a meltdown
while holidaying in the Cook Islands, running naked into a bar and
punching two men.
Then in January last year he allegedly became
involved in a brawl at a party in Christchurch, prompting him
temporarily to withdraw from rugby and seek help.
In March the New
Zealand Rugby Union cleared him to return to his Super 15 club the
Canterbury Crusaders and the New Zealand national team, although he
failed to break back into the All Blacks.
Clermont sporting director Jean-Marc Lhermet hailed the arrival of a "fantastic" player of Guildford's level in central France.
"Zac Guildford's arrival is excellent news from our club," Lhermet said on the club's website.
having experienced nearly everything in New Zealand, it is with the
ambition of living a new adventure and seeking new challenges that he
joins the club for the coming seasons."