Time right to make the move, says Smith

It could not last forever.

Ben Smith heading to France to play rugby had an inevitability about it.

He almost went two years ago, but this time the offer from French club Pau was too good to turn down.


Smith (32), who was in Wanaka with family yesterday, said many factors went into his decision to head north after next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"I suppose it was a wee bit of everything. For myself and my family, we still feel we have a bit to give next year. We just thought it would be a good time to find a new challenge and head over to France," he said.

"There is some really good people involved with the Pau club: Conrad Smith, Colin Slade, Carl Hayman and Simon Mannix. There is just good people in the club.

"Just be able to do something a bit different, a different culture. Take my family there and I'll be able to spend a bit more time with [wife] Katie and take them round.

"I thought we would get it out in the open now. My heart and my head, though, will be with the teams I am playing for in New Zealand next year."

It was just good timing to head off after the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year, he said

"We can go over there and spend seven months in France and have a good look at France. After that, hopefully have another crack at somewhere else. Biggest thing for us is making sure that the kids are able to adapt where we are going, and we are confident they will be able to."

The Smiths are parents to daughter Annabelle and son Walter.

All Black Ben Smith, wife Katie, son Walter (20 months) and daughter Annabelle (3) in Wanaka...
All Black Ben Smith, wife Katie, son Walter (20 months) and daughter Annabelle (3) in Wanaka yesterday. PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT

Smith said the decision was difficult in some ways but straightforward in others.

"It was and it wasn't. Because I enjoy playing my footy in Dunedin, I love the teams I play for. Dunedin's the place I come from, that me and Katie come from, and our family is from.

"But we will enjoy the change. We will be back, though. As a family we are going to enjoy a bit of a change. More a chance of trying something a bit different. Come 2020 we would have played a lot of rugby in New Zealand."

He nearly went to France in 2017 but said at the time he was not quite ready.

"I knew this time was right. Previously I was weighing up that decision. But I knew then in New Zealand I had more rugby in me, but now it is the time to explore my options and my family."

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