Life is good in France, so good Conrad Smith has no plans to return home anytime soon and may enter some form of coaching role when he hangs up the boots next year.

Smith initially signed a two-year deal with Pau after the 2015 World Cup but enjoyed everything from the French culture to rugby so much he extended for one more season.

He always knew living in Europe; at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, close to London friends, would invigorate the next stage of post All Black life.

Speaking a foreign language was naturally challenging at first but Smith now orders meals and exchanges pleasantries with team-mates without being outside his comfort zone.


Some things about the contrasting culture drove him crazy but, after a while, he learned to savour the slow pace, two-hour lunch breaks, and even managed to sneak into the support vehicle for Nelson's George Bennett at this year's Tour de France.

With his three-year-old son just starting local school and seven-month-old daughter and wife settled, Smith is keen to further extend his stay but turning 36 next month means retirement nears.

"I'm pretty sure this is my last season but it's the way you want to finish," Smith, who will feature with Pau alongside Colin Slade and Tom Taylor at next year's Brisbane Global Tens, said. "I'm still enjoying it and feel like I could go on but also keen to call it a day while I'm feeling good."

The Top 14 season alone encompasses 26 games - that's before you factor in European matches. But crucially for Smith, local matches involve a simple bus ride or one-hour flight which enables him to spend much more time at home with his young family. He certainly doesn't miss jetting to South Africa on a regular basis.

"If I was back home there is no way I'd still be going. It's a pretty good life so I'll enjoy it while I can."

Smith, a qualified lawyer who broke into the professional ranks later than most, always had life after rugby well sorted. All he knows for sure right now is he won't be leaving France immediately after on-field duties wind up.

"I don't have anything set in stone but even when I first started I was always conscious of working away at things off the field if rugby ever fell through. I don't think we're going to finish and shoot back home straight away. The motivation to come here was to live here so we're going to stay here for a while yet and see how things go.

"The attraction of home with family and friends it's always going to be big but while New Zealand is a beautiful place it is isolated and things don't seem to move along all that quickly compared to here so we're keen to enjoy it for a while yet."

Anyone who has come through the ranks at Wellington's Old Boys University - the goats as they are known - is well aware Smith regularly contributed to the under-21s team over the years. Seeing a legendary All Black give up his time so willingly at club level spoke volumes of the man.

Privately he's also donated time and money to several charities but those sessions at OBU hint at what could be next for the 94-test veteran.

Pau, coached by former All Blacks and Hurricanes first five-eighth Simon Mannix, would be silly not to tap into Smith's knowledge.

"I remember coaching the Colts well and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I still can't see myself as a career coach - maybe it's the fact I've spent so long with rugby already. I know there's so much more to life and I want to do other things but the time I've had coaching has been really enjoyable.

"The club here is in a really good place so I am going to look at those things. There are a couple of opportunities with the club and if that fits in with family and everything then it's a possibility."