Recently retired midfielder Conrad Smith believes the All Blacks reached new heights at the World Cup and says their back-to-back title success was the culmination of four years of hard work.

Smith, who leaves New Zealand on Saturday to begin a two year playing stint with French club Pau, says the tournament win was especially sweet for the group of departing senior All Blacks who had worked tirelessly over the past four years towards repeating their 2011 World Cup victory.

The 34-year-old 94 test veteran also took tremendous satisfaction from the spirit and style in which the All Blacks played and believes Steve Hansen's side showcased rugby in the best possible light.

"It was very satisfying, obviously for the whole group, but there was a group of us at the back of the bus that were particularly pleased with the way things worked out," Smith told Radio Sport.


"You couldn't have asked for much more so that was nice.

"And for the whole group, we all enjoyed - as much as anyone - the level and style of rugby that was played at the World Cup, which I didn't think had been seen before.

"They had always been exciting but it was just because they were close and the rugby wasn't always great. We even said that ourselves about 2011 at times.

"But that last World Cup was a bit different, it was just great for the game."

Smith spoke fondly of his great partnership with fellow Wellington, Hurricanes and All Blacks retiree Ma'a Nonu, who last week made his debut for French club Toulon.

The pair played 61 tests together since 2007 and Smith is looking forward to reuniting with Nonu in France, but hopes they see more of each other away from the field rather than on it.

"He was quality and that's a sign of a good player the way he stepped up in the big games and big occasions and he's someone I've been lucky enough to play a lot of rugby alongside," he said.

"I've been in touch with him already and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of each other although we're on the opposite side of France.


"Whether it's on the field, or hopefully off the field I'll see him a bit more. I'm not looking that forward to seeing him on the field."

After 12 years in the New Zealand rugby spotlight, the chance to join Pau - one of the lower profile French clubs - holds great appeal as he and his wife, Leanne, look to share and enjoy a new experience and lifestyle together.

"We're pretty pumped about it and for it to be only a few days away is pretty exciting.

"We've hopefully done all we can to prepare for it and it will be a big change and there will be a lot of challenges but it's something we're looking forward to."

With rugby having dominated their lives, Smith felt his wife deserved to have a big say in their latest move, and the pair are looking forward to immersing themselves in a new culture.

"It's something that she wanted to do. Being a rugby player it's a pretty selfish lifestyle so I was pretty keen on letting her make some decisions.

"She's been following me around and letting me do my thing and making a lot of sacrifices so it was agreed upon, she wanted to do it and was keen on living overseas after we've been travelling in the past.


"We've always enjoyed the longer stints that we've had in the one place rather than hopping around everywhere.

"Even if I wasn't going to play rugby we were keen to live somewhere for a couple of years and it's the way it's all worked out."