Auckland - New
Zealand prop Charlie Faumuina has signed on with French club Toulouse,
but said on Thursday he still wants to be available for the All Blacks when
the British and Irish Lions tour next year.
The 46-Test veteran, who can play both sides of the scrum, will join Toulouse at the start of the next European season.
"I'm looking forward to my last season in New Zealand, making it a
successful one with the Blues and hopefully getting the chance to play
for the All Blacks," he said in a statement.
The 30-year-old's decision to leave New Zealand comes after
first-choice tighthead prop Owen Franks confirmed he was staying through
to the next Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
Faumuina and Franks were both members of the All Blacks squad that
retained the World Cup last year, with Faumuina taking the field as a
replacement during the final against Australia.
His decision to leave at the end of next season leaves All Blacks
coach Steve Hansen with the decision whether to retain Faumuina for the
2017 Tests or blood a new prop two years out from the next World Cup.
Faumuina said he was looking forward to joining Toulouse, one of the leading sides in the French Top 14 club championship table.
"Toulouse has a rich history and proud record. I have only heard good
things from the people I talked to who played for the club and I'm sure
the fans will support me," Faumuina said.
"I'm sure I will enjoy the type of rugby they play. I know Toulouse
is an ambitious club who aims to win titles. The Top 14 is a tough
league, but I'm looking forward to play in such a competitive
Another three All Blacks - Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden
- are off contract next year and are also believed to be considering
lucrative offers to join French clubs.