Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Charlie Faumuina reportedly heading to France

All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina playing for the Blues during the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo / Getty
All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina playing for the Blues during the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo / Getty

All Blacks and Blues prop Charlie Faumuina has signed with Toulouse and will join the club next year, according to a French newspaper.

Midi Olympique has reported the 29-year-old, who played his 34th test for the All Blacks in last weekend's 39-21 victory over Wales at Eden Park, will join the club after next year's Super Rugby season.

The newspaper said Faumuina would replace Manu Samoa prop Census Johnston, a player who has tread a fine line between club and country over the years.

There will be no such issues for Faumuina, an immensely strong and mobile prop sure to make a big impact in the French Top 14 competition. Faumuina, who early last year re-committed to New Zealand Rugby for three years, will likely play his last test for the All Blacks during next year's tour by the Lions, which starts in June.

It is probably the perfect time for him to bow out. After making his test debut in 2012, Faumuina has been used mainly as an impact player off the reserves bench behind tighthead Owen Franks.

Of his 34 tests, he has started only 10, his ball skills, speed and agility making him the perfect player to change the tempo of a match but also, to some extent, limiting his opportunities.

After playing in last year's World Cup, Faumuina would have been left with a choice - stay with the Blues and the All Blacks for the next global tournament in Japan in 2019, or effectively cash-in while he is still in his prime. The newspaper says Faumuina has signed a three-year contract with Toulouse, and it is likely to be lucrative - at least double what he can earn in New Zealand.

Front rowers are highly sought after in France due to the physical and tight nature of the European competitions, and the 130kg Faumuina is likely to be an attractive recruit for the club's supporters.

Midi Olympique made mention of Faumuina arriving in the south of France in June next year, but it would be a surprise if he didn't stay for the three-test Lions tour, which includes matches against all the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises. The tour opens with a match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on June 3 and includes a match against the New Zealand Maori in Rotorua.

In re-committing to New Zealand Rugby last year, Faumuina said: "Long-term, the British and Irish Lions tour in 2017 is another key moment in New Zealand rugby. The Lions hold a huge amount of history and to potentially be a part of an All Blacks team playing against this iconic team is hugely motivating."

The most obvious beneficiary of Faumuina's departure will likely be his Blues teammate Ofa Tu'ungafasi, a player who can play both sides of the scrum and who was called into the All Blacks squad for the first time this month.

- NZ Herald

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