All Black first five Aaron Cruden signs with French club

All Black first five Aaron Cruden signs with French club

News emerging from France on Tuesday has confirmed a long held rumour that All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden was about to ditch the famous black jersey for a lucrative contract in the Top 14.

And Cruden may not be the only All Black departing New Zealand's shores this year.

"In saying that the excitement comes from the fact I've signed a three-year deal with Montpellier in France, a lovely part of the world".

Montpellier owner and president Mohed Altrad confirmed the club signing, saying a statement would be released later today.

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Cruden's departure would come as no surprise, with the playmaker being overtaken in the All Blacks' first-five ranks by Beauden Barrett following the departure of Dan Carter.

Cruden, who has played in 47 Tests for the All Blacks, will become ineligible for his country once he joins the French Top 14 side, but will see out the remainder of the season with the Chiefs.

The selectors would be smart to pick Cruden in their squad to face the Lions before he takes off for France where he'll have a lot of money, but will miss out on the opportunity to cement himself as one of the great All Blacks first-fives.

New Zealand Rugby now faces the possibility of losing Ben Smith and Israel Dagg as Northern Hemisphere clubs set to entice All Black veterans across. Third on the current French Top 14 table, they have signed New Zealand coach Vern Cotter to take over next season. Highlanders first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga and Chiefs utility Damian McKenzie were on the end of year tour with the All Blacks last year while Crusaders number 10 Richie Mo'unga last week signed with New Zealand Rugby through to 2019.