All Black fly-half Dan Carter has decided to join French outfit Perpignan on a six-month deal beginning this December.
Carter will join his new side after New Zealand’s Northern Hemisphere tour, which includes Tests against all four Home Nations and current Heineken Cup champions Munster.
The 26-year-old, who was a key figure in the All Blacks’ series win over the Lions in 2005, will return to New Zealand next year ahead of his country’s preparations for the 2011 World Cup.
“I would like to thank the NZRU for offering me this unique opportunity,” said Carter.
“The All Black jersey is no one’s by right and I fully appreciate that I will have to continue to play well and prove myself if I am to be involved with the All Blacks next year and beyond. The 2011 Rugby World Cup is going to be a phenomenal event and my priority has always been to be available to take part in that.
“Obviously there is also some disappointment at not being able to be part of the Crusaders next year and that was probably the hardest part of my decision, particularly given how well the boys finished the season and the excitement around the new coaching structures next year. The Crusaders have been a massive part of my life and I hope that I can continue that association when I return.”
Carter had been strongly linked with a move to French Top 14 newcomers Toulon, but the lure of Heineken Cup rugby ensured he chose Perpignan as the destination for his European sabbatical.
"We hear a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the European competitions and how they compare to the Rebel Sport Super 14 and the Air New Zealand Cup. Basically, if I am going to play rugby in Europe I want to test myself against the best Europe can offer and I am excited about the challenges both the Top 14 and the European Cup will bring.
“I have done plenty of research on both Toulon and Perpignan and whilst I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed Toulon, in the end, Perpignan’s qualification for next year’s European Cup swayed my decision.
During his time in France, Carter will not be eligible for All Black selection but he will return in time for his country’s June 2009 Tests.