Colin Slade joins All Blacks exodus

Crusaders and New Zealand utility-back to follow Dan Carter to France despite Steve Hansen's call for him to remain at home

Colin Slade has confirmed he will leave New Zealand to join French club Pau after the Rugby World Cup later this year.

The 27-year-old Crusaders utility back will join the Pro D2 champions, who will return to the Top 14 next season, until mid-2018 on a deal understood to be worth more than £400,000 a season.

Pau is a club with great ambition that is really keen to establish itself in France, and the chance to play in the Top 14, and potentially European Cup, is an exciting new challenge for me.

Colin Slade on decision to leave New Zealand for France

With Crusaders and All Blacks legend Dan Carter also heading to France, Slade’s decision will see the defending world champions’ lose another talented outside-half to the big money available in French rugby.

The announcement of Slade’s decision to leave comes after All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen called on the 17-times capped versatile back to commit to New Zealand Rugby to challenge Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett for the number 10 jersey.

His chances of getting a look in would have been enhanced if Barrett presses ahead with his desire to make the All Blacks Sevens team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but the player admitted there were a number of factors in making the difficult decision to become the latest All Black to see his immediate future in the northern hemisphere.

“They did everything they could to keep me here,” Slade said.

“I certainly wasn’t discouraged by the package they put together.

“This is certainly not a decision taken lightly.

“I have given it a lot of thought and considered all my options, but I am now satisfied that moving to Pau after this year is the right decision for me at this point in my life.

“Pau is a club with great ambition that is really keen to establish itself in France, and the chance to play in the Top 14, and potentially European Cup, is an exciting new challenge for me.

“My wife and I are also excited to have the opportunity to live in the south of France and travel around Europe in between rugby commitments.

“I am very grateful for my time here in New Zealand and have been honoured to have played in some great teams, alongside many of the best players in the world.

“I am also grateful to NZ Rugby for their genuine efforts throughout the decision making process.

“I want to make it clear that I still have goals to achieve this year and remain absolutely committed to giving 100 per cent until I leave.”

Just seven rounds in to the 2015 Super Rugby season, the number of players opting to leave New Zealand continues to grow with Slade becoming the sixth player heading to France.

English clubs have also been busy with All Black forwards Ben Franks (London Irish) and Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester) among the eight players already confirming moves to the Aviva Premiership.

At the end of the day I’ve just got to focus on playing well and hopefully I still have a shot.

Colin Slade on his prospects of playing at the Rugby World Cup

A further four players have already confirmed moves to the Guinness PRO12, although Blues back Charles Piutau will not join Ulster until July 2016.

Slade will join All Blacks colleague Conrad Smith in making the move to the Stade du Hameau, where they will be coached by former All Blacks outside-half Simon Mannix.

With Pau’s return to the French top flight confirmed, they are expected to set about a huge spending spree that could see other big names attracted from Europe and Super Rugby, and Slade conceded the opportunity was too good to turn down

“From [purely a rugby point of view] an outsider would probably think its a silly decision to leave now, but I have weighed-up every factor,” he added.

“This is a good club in a good part of the world. It was just something I couldn’t pass up.”

Following the fall out from Piutau’s decision to move to Ireland next year, All Blacks boss Hansen admitted that it would become harder to select players for the Rugby World Cup if they have chosen not to recommit to New Zealand Rugby.

But if Carter, Cruden and Barrett are included, Slade’s versatility could count in his favour with places in the squad limited.

And he knows that he will have to be on top of his game for the rest of his final season with the Crusaders to earn a place on the All Blacks’ plane to England.

“That was one of the harder things,” he added.

“You want to do everything in your powers to make that.

“At the end of the day I’ve just got to focus on playing well and hopefully I still have a shot.”

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