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All Blacks prop Faumuina France-bound

AAP logoAAP 28/12/2016

All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina will quit New Zealand rugby to join French club Toulouse from the start of the next European season.

The 30-year-old Auckland Blues player has played 46 Tests for New Zealand, mainly from the bench, since his debut in 2012.

He will play most of the next Super Rugby season for the Blues and will be available to play in the All Blacks' mid-year series against the British and Irish Lions before leaving for France.

Faumuina said he is "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 was a member of the All Blacks team that won the 2015 World Cup, appearing in the final as a replacement.

The 30-year-old's announcement comes just days after the contract renewal of first-choice tighthead Owen Franks through to the 2019 World Cup.

Franks, a 90-cap Test veteran and dual World Cup winner, has typically kept Faumuina out of the Test side's starting XV.

Faumuina started in just 12 of his 46 All Blacks caps, including two against Namibia and Georgia in last year's seven-match march to the Webb Ellis Trophy.

He was a substitute in the side's 34-17 World Cup final win over Australia.

Despite this, the loss of the 127kg Faumuina will serve as a blow for boss Steve Hansen, given his ability to play on both sides of the scrum.

"I think Charlie will delight in the Top 14, which is a championship that will value his qualities," Toulouse sporting director Fabien Pelous said.

"Solidity, power and reading the game."

Faumuina will not be the only Kiwi in the Occitane capital, however, joining compatriot, former Chief Carl Axtens, and former All Blacks second-five Luke McAlister.

He'll also play alongside former France legend Thierry Dusautoir, who skippered Les Bleus in their 2011 World Cup final loss to New Zealand.

"I've only heard compliments about the club from those who had the chance to play there," Faumuina said.

"I know the club is ambitious and aspires to win titles."

Faumuina's departure may presage a glut of All Blacks departures to Europe, with stalwarts Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden all fielding big offers.

The trio, who come off contract in 2017, remain in negotiations with NZ Rugby for extensions through to the 2019 World Cup.

Skipper Kieran Read is also yet to sign a new deal, but is expected to do so.

World Cup winners Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Victor Vito, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith have all moved to France since last year's triumph.

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