Often the French and transfer rumours are all smoke no fire but, on this occasion, Jerome Kaino's links to Toulon are genuine.

Kaino's agent, Esportif's Bruce Sharrock, confirmed to the Herald daily discussions are on-going with Toulon. Nothing has been signed, and other options are being explored, but it is no surprise to see this news leak out.

Read more: Jerome Kaino linked with French club

French owners love trumpeting marquee signings well before they are done.

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Kaino's other options are understood to include a second stint in Japan, where he spent two years with Toyota between playing leading roles in the 2011 and 2015 World Cup triumphs.

Dan Carter is the latest high-profile player to prolong his career in Japan – and don't be surprised if Ma'a Nonu follows suit.

All Blacks loose forward Jerome Kaino, during the 3rd and final test match between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
All Blacks loose forward Jerome Kaino, during the 3rd and final test match between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Like many veterans, Kaino is understood to have an out clause that allows him to leave after next year's Super Rugby season.

Depending on the disparity of offers here and abroad, at this stage staying at home remains on the table.

On the face of it, though, a move abroad probably makes sense.

Kaino turns 35 in April, and has just endured one of the most turbulent periods of his distinguished career. Escaping the New Zealand fishbowl would not be the worst option.

In terms of Toulon, Duane Vermeulen's potential return to the Stormers leaves an opening in the loose forwards.

For all Kaino's struggles of late it's easy to forget only a few months ago - back in June and July during the British and Irish Lions series - he remained the All Blacks' starting blindside.

Prior to that his presence was largely unrivalled.

Kaino was solid enough against the Lions but only played 25 minutes of the second test in Wellington after being pulled for Ngani Laumape following Sonny Bill Williams' red card.

Kaino's yellow card in the third test blotted his work, and he did not deliver the same influential plays like that of driving Digby Ioane back 10 metres in the dominant 2011 World Cup semifinal victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Since the Lions series, circumstances conspired to rapidly advance the changing of the guard at blindside.

Off-field dramas and frequent injuries, the last of which a PCL knee tear that forced Kaino home early from the All Blacks northern tour, saw him slide down the pecking order.

Kaino was slated to start the final test of the year against Wales in Cardiff. It was to be a chance to show how much his fire still burned.

But after two-and-a-half months out of the black jersey, his only appearance on the northern tour came at No 8 against the Barbarians at Twickenham; not nearly enough to prove he remained a formidable force.

As it was his absence allowed Liam Squire and Vaea Fifita to further establish their contrasting, compelling credentials. Despite his experience and pedigree that left Kaino with much to prove to force his way back into a starting role.

Drawing a line under his New Zealand career just yet would be premature, however. As always there is much to consider.

Negotiations with New Zealand Rugby are yet to reach the pointy end where figures will ultimately determine whether he stays or goes.

While the Blues are likely to be more keen to retain his services, the difficulty from NZR's perspective will be assessing where Kaino is at, and how much more he has to give.

Without viewing a renewed body of work the national body is unlikely to offer Kaino the same salary he commanded in his last three-year deal.

Compared with those overseas, a downgraded deal could lead to the 81-test veteran feeling undervalued here. If it is a matter of $50,000, or even $100,000, Kaino might decide to suck it up and stay.

But at this stage in his career, where he needs to maximise his earnings, any greater difference could be a deal breaker.

With his future expected to be sorted by mid-January, next year's Super Rugby campaign could mark the swansong for one of New Zealand's greatest blindside flankers.

All will be revealed in the New Year, if not before with a French owner prematurely popping the champagne cork.