The true price of a French rugby contract has been revealed - it cost former All Black Ali Williams the chance to attend his best mate Richie McCaw's wedding.
Williams, who is contracted to the Paris-based Racing 92 club, confirmed he was not allowed to travel to New Zealand for McCaw's wedding with Gemma Flynn in Wanaka last Saturday.
The French Top 14 competition is in full swing and Racing 92 thumped English club Leicester in the European Champions Cup last weekend. Williams' former All Blacks team-mate Dan Carter slotted four goals in the 34-3 win. Williams came on as a substitute.
McCaw and Williams are long-time close friends and are business partners as well.
McCaw was a groomsman at Williams' marriage to Casey Green in 2012.
Williams has been playing in Europe since quitting New Zealand rugby after the 2011 Rugby World Cup success.
He had stints with glamour club Toulon before announcing his playing retirement in 2015 and then doing TV work in Europe.
However, midway through last year, Racing 92 convinced him to be part of their wider playing squad alongside old mate Dan Carter and the 35-year-old lock agreed to a short-term contract.
"It's one of those things, when you chuck the game in you think, 'that's me' and you have no desire to get back playing," Williams said at the time.
"Then when the body has the time to recuperate you think, 'well, there are possibilities I can go again."
But his deal with Racing didn't extend to the club allowing him to skip last weekend and return for the McCaw wedding.
It was not unexpected. French clubs are notoriously tough on releasing players for non-Top 14 rugby activity during the season.
French clubs Oyonnax and Toulouse would not even release former All Blacks Piri Weepu and Luke McAlister to play in a tribute match in Toulon last year for late team-mate Jerry Collins.
It's not known if Carter, whose wife Honor is also a former Black Sticks hockey star like McCaw's bride, was invited to last weekend's nupitals and was also prevented from travelling.
Racing 92 did not respond to Herald requests for comment.