French club

All Blacks back Ben Smith confirms French fling

The 32-year-old Smith, who has played 76 Tests for the All Blacks and 144 games for the Highlanders, has signed a contract with French Top 14 club Pau and will leave New Zealand after what is expected to be his swansong, the 2019 World Cup in Japan, which starts next September.

"I'm excited about the opportunities that may present themselves in the future, but I also realise that my playing time with Otago, the Highlanders and the All Blacks now has an end point," Smith said.

Carter absent for French loss

La Rochelle - France's minor premiers last season - celebrated a 16-9 home win over Racing 92 in a seventh round match on Sunday.

Carter has not played for three weeks and his absence prompted L'Equipe newspaper rugby writer Richard Escot to speculate that Racing were "undoubtedly preserving" Carter and former Springbok Patrick Lambie for upcoming European Cup matches against the Leicester Tigers and Irish province Munster.

Maxime Machenaud, who replaced Carter at first five-eighths, scored all Racing's points with three penalties to ensure a defensive bonus point.

Hika Elliot signs French club deal

The club announced on Thursday that they had signed the four-test All Black to a two-year deal, beginning in the French 2017/18 season.

Elliot joins a number of Chiefs heading overseas after this season, with halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Toulon), first five-eighth Aaron Cruden (Montpellier) and wing James Lowe (Leinster) also taking their talents abroad.

The 31-year-old has been the Chiefs' starting hooker this season, however, with Nathan Harris' return not far off he might find himself moving to a bench role. 

Dan Carter's French club Racing 92 merges with Stade Francais

The clubs, which have both struggled this season in France's premier Top 14 league, said in statements on their websites that the combination would create a new, stronger club that could enjoy a bigger fanbase in the French capital.

Carter and fellow ex-All Black Joe Rokocoko are among Racing 92's stars, while Stade Francais' top players feature the likes of French international Pascal Pape and Italian Sergio Parisse.

Former All Black Byron Kelleher also played for Stade Francais, following his retirement from international rugby.

Cruden couldn't resist French affair

RNZ reports the 28-year-old, who has 47 caps for New Zealand, this morning confirmed he's signed a three-year deal.

Cruden said, "It's with great sadness that this will be my last year playing rugby here in New Zealand, representing Manawatu, the Chiefs and also the All Blacks.