Accolades are flowing for the All Blacks most capped centre and Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith, who has today confirmed he is leaving New Zealand rugby at the end of the 2015 season.
33-year-old Smith will join French club Pau on a two-year deal at the end of what will be his 12th season of professional rugby in New Zealand.
Smith said he had loved his time playing rugby in New Zealand, and looked forwardn to ending things on a high note.
"I'm really looking forward to what will be my last season here, but it feels like the right time for me move on and try something different. Having a stint in France will allow me to spend more time as a husband and father, which was the main motivation for me when I made the decision," Smith said.
Hurricanes Coach Chris Boyd said Smith had been such a committed Hurricane and Wellington Lions player over a long period of time, and epitomised what a great team man should be.
"We're sad to see him go, but all good things must come to an end, and we certainly wish him well for the next stage of his life.
"There are not many players who have given 12 consecutive years of service to the same team, and we're grateful for everything Conrad has contributed to both the Wellington and Hurricanes set-ups. He'll always be a huge part of our history."
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Smith exemplified everything that was great about the game of rugby.
"He is an outstanding person, one of New Zealand rugby's most consistent players over the last decade and hugely respected by all who know him. We owe Conrad, and others who have represented their teams so well over many years, a great deal of gratitude."Tew said Smith's influence in rugby had also extended beyond the playing field.
"With his well-known background in law, Conrad has also been involved as a player representative in the Players' Collective negotiations for many years and has helped shape the current environment for all professional players. He will also leave a great legacy in that regard. We all look forward to enjoying his last season with us and also look forward to his return to New Zealand."
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "On behalf of the All Blacks, I want to publicly acknowledge the outstanding contribution Conrad has made - and continues to make - to the All Blacks. He is a world-class player and leader in our team and we look forward to that continuing this season. We in the All Blacks wish both Conrad and his wife all the very best for their new adventures next season.
- Smith signs 2-year-deal with French club Pau