Prime Minister John Key was joined by rugby royalty at a private dinner in Paris this morning (NZ time).

French-based former All Blacks Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith attended the dinner, hosted by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

The dinner came after bilateral talks between Key and Valls, who first met in March during Valls' 24-hour stop-off in Auckland.

It was one of a series of high-level meetings with European leaders, which were urgently added to Key's European itinerary following Britain's decision to leave the EU.

John Key and Manuel Valls meet before dinner. Photo / Getty Images
John Key and Manuel Valls meet before dinner. Photo / Getty Images

Key also met Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last night and outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday, though the latter meeting was overshadowed by the announcement that Cameron was soon to be replaced by Home Secretary Theresa May.

After the meeting, Key said Renzi had expressed "strong support" for a New Zealand-EU free trade deal and the pair had agreed to stay in close contact as talks moved toward launching formal negotiations. They had also discussed counter terrorism and the regional economy.

"This is my first visit to Rome as Prime Minister and I am encouraged by the warmth and wide-ranging cooperation that characterise our relationship with Italy."

As Britain prepares to leave the EU, New Zealand will lose one of its most influential supporters for a free trade deal at the EU table. Key's trip is partly aimed at bolstering relations with other EU countries.

He said there was enthusiasm for strengthening the relationship with Italy more.

Later today, Key will attend the Bastille Day parade. In a historic first, New Zealand Defence Force troops will march in the parade, which is one of the oldest and largest in the world.

About 80 NZDF personnel will join the parade on the Champs Elysees.

Key will then meet President Francois Hollande before attending a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.