Kerr-Barlow latest All Black off to France

Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow will head to France at the end of the year after signing a three-year deal with Top 14 club La Rochelle.

The 26-year-old has played 25 Tests for the All Blacks.

"I'm excited to announce that the next chapter of my rugby career will be with La Rochelle in France," he said.

"It was an extremely hard decision to make, but I feel it is the right one for my family and myself. I've always wanted to play rugby in New Zealand and to represent teams like Waikato and the Chiefs which is where my family comes from. It was a childhood dream of mine to become an All Black and it has been a privilege to represent my country."

"Over the past couple of months I've thought long and hard about going overseas. I had really good contact with the Chiefs and the All Blacks throughout the process, but ultimately the opportunity to play rugby with La Rochelle and experience the French culture with my family was the right decision for me. At this point in time, I'm 100 percent focused on helping the Chiefs to another Super Rugby title and making the best of every moment I have left to play rugby in New Zealand."

Melbourne-born Kerr-Barlow arrived in New Zealand in 2004 as a 13-year-old and attended Hamilton Boys High School.

He made his debut for Waikato in 2009 and in 2010 he was part of the New Zealand Under 20 side that won the Junior World Championship in Argentina.

Kerr-Barlow made his Super Rugby debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2011 against the Brumbies. Since then the clinical number nine has become a mainstay for the Chiefs, dotting down seven times in his 70 appearances to date.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: "Tawera is one of the nicest guys you'll meet and has been a pleasure to work with. Caring and competitive are two traits that stand out, but it's his work ethic and leadership around defence that makes him world-class. Tawera is in the form of his life, we wish him well."

In January French newspaper L'Equipe reported that glamour club Toulon had shown interest in Kerr-Barlow.

Kerr-Barlow will join Victor Vito and jason eaton at La Rochelle.

La Rochelle is currently top of the Top 14 standings.


Photo: AFP (Tawera Kerr-Barlow goes in for his first try during today's Rugby World Cup game between New Zealand and France)