Smith is still an important part of the All Blacks set-up. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

An All Blacks legend is joining James Coughlan in Pau next season

The French club have pulled off a hugely impressive signing.

FRENCH CLUB PAU have confirmed the signing of legendary All Blacks centre Conrad Smith for next season.

The 33-year-old will move to the Simon Mannix-coached outfit following the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Smith has already amassed 85 caps for New Zealand, helping them to their 2011 World Cup triumph and a total of five Tri Nations/Rugby Championships.

While Smith may have edged past his very peak as a player, he remains in the world-class bracket. A two-year deal at Pau speaks volumes about what the midfielder still has to offer.

Smith will join former Munster number eight James Coughlan in France next season, with the Irishman currently driving Pau’s promotion push. Mannix’s men are currently enjoying a 14-point lead at the top of the Pro D2 and are strong favourites to progress into the Top 14 next season.

Pau also confirmed the signing of Munster flanker Sean Dougall last week, while it is rumoured that teammate Paddy Butler will be at Pau next season too. Former Munster performance analyst Elliot Corcoran is already with the Pro D2 side.

Mannix left Munster last summer, along with ex-head coach Rob Penney, having served as back coach of the province for two seasons. Previously, the once-capped All Black had worked with Gloucester and Racing Métro.

While Pau’s ever-growing willingness to spend money on high-quality players has obviously been an important factor in the signing of Smith, the presence of a fellow Kiwi in Mannix seems sure to have been another draw.

I have loved my time playing rugby in New Zealand and really looking forward to what will be my last season here, but it feels like the right time for me move on and try something different,” said Smith.

“Having a stint in France will allow me to spend more time as a husband and father, which was the main motivation for me when I made the decision.”

Jonny May and Conrad Smith Smith is a classy footballer and leader. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Meanwhile, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen wished Smith best wishes for his future transfer from the Hurricanes:

“On behalf of the All Blacks, I want to publicly acknowledge the outstanding contribution Conrad has made – and continues to make – to the All Blacks,” said Hansen.

“He is a world-class player and leader in our team and we look forward to that continuing this season. We in the All Blacks wish both Conrad and his wife all the very best for their new adventures next season.”

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