Dan Carter's future at French club Racing 92 could be in jeopardy after the announcement of a 'super merger' with a powerful rival and criticism of the former All Black's "partying" lifestyle from the owner.
French rugby was rocked this morning when Racing owner Jacky Lorenzetti announced the club would merge with another powerful Parisian club Stade Francais from next season.
Racing and Stade Francais have won the last two Top 14 titles and the plan to merge and 'super club' leaves many top stars including Carter, who is in the second year of a lucrative three-season contract said to be worth $NZ2 million annually, and other ex-All Blacks such as Joe Rokocoko and Chris Masoe in limbo. French media claim Racing hold the whip hand in the merger which has come as a lightning bolt for European rugby.
However, despite that claim, Lorenzetti has made it clear Racing intends to dump players ahead of the merger.
Lorenzetti said in a letter to supporters that the two Racing coaches Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, who will take over coaching duties at the new club, would have to "make choices."
"Players will be axed," he warned.
"They've got 45 players, we've got 45 players, 45+45=45," he said of the two clubs. "Merit will be the criteria, probably youth and the factor of being selectable for France."
The latter criteria doesn't augur well for Carter, especially after Lorenzetti's very public criticism of his star playmaker the day before the merger announcement.
Lorenzetti lashed out at Carter after he was jeered off the field by Racing fans following a 38-15 loss to La Rochelle in the French Top 14 in Paris over the weekend.
Frustrated that the reigning French champions are languishing in the Top 14 standings, Lorenzetti expressed his concern for Carter's partying habits, claiming his below par displays since his alleged drink driving incident in Paris have been central to Racing's underwhelming run to the play-offs.
"I have long said that man was perfect, that he knew only one fault: it was not to know precisely," Lorenzetti, a 69-year-old real estate tycoon, told Le Parisien. "Finally it was discovered that he knew how to party. Perhaps today he is too much solicited from right and left by too many public relations operations.
"We will try to refocus him on rugby. The guy is responsible and big enough, I think he's going to do it on his own, we do not need to talk to him about it. He understood."
Rivals have expressed concern about Lorenzetti's merger.
The news sent shockwaves through France's rugby federation (FFR).
"The FFR is shocked to learn via the media this project leading to the disappearance of one of the two biggest clubs in French rugby," a statement announced.
The federation added it was "extremely stunned at the supposed creation of a new club without being consulted."
Stade Francais counterpart Thomas Savare, a finance and credit card technology tycoon, has likewise paid heavily for the likes of Italian captain Sergio Parisse, Australian scrum-half Will Genia and South African fly-half Morne Steyn.
His team, triumphant in 2015, are currently 12th.