RugbyU: La vie en rose awaits World Cup stars
Several other combatants from the All Blacks 34-17 victory over Australia will also decamp to European rugby’s glamour league which promises to bolster French clubs’ domination of European rugby.
Carter — whose magisterial performance masterminded the All Blacks victory — the move stems from one simple factor — received a financial offer from Racing 92 that he could not refuse.
“Obviously, realising you can’t play rugby for ever and wanting to make the most of that opportunity financially and set yourself up for the future was a big part of it as well,” said the 33-year-old when he announced his move last December.
“And Paris is not a bad place to live — one of my favourite cities, which I’m quite excited about. It’s something I’ve been working hard on for the last five or six years to make sure I’m making the most of the money I have earned and will earn while being a rugby player.”
Conrad Smith, whose financial security should be assured post career as he has a law degree, put his move to Pau down to his family.
“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,” said the 33-year-old centre, who was instrumental in the All Blacks’ first try on half-time on Saturday.
While their arrivals will bolster the French teams — Smith and fellow squad member Colin Slade will be welcome reinforcements for a Pau side struggling to come to terms with the Top 14 after promotion last season — for the ailing French national side it means more suffering.
The foreign legion keep talented young French players out of starting line-ups. Coaches say French talent needs top class game time if the national side are to rise out of the ashes of their disastrous World Cup campaign.
– France suffers –
The psychological effects of the 62-13 quarter-final humiliation by the All Blacks will take some time to get over but longer-term it is the arrival en masse of the Southern Hemisphere stars that threatens any sort of renaissance.
“With how the politics are today it is very hard to imagine it being possible to have both a competitive Top 14 and a national team,” said former France great Imanol Harinordoquy.
“The clubs are obliged to have quality line-ups, attractive players, stars who come from all over the world. That guarantees sold out stadia and promotes the Top 14.
“But this spectacle comes at the detriment of developing young talent, who get to play very little. If one day we want to be world champions it is imperative we ask ourselves some hard questions,” added the 82-times capped back row forward.
The outspoken owner of three-time European champions Toulon Mourad Boudjellal — who has been at the forefront of attracting top foreign talent to the league — is dismissive of the complaints being made about clubs handicapping the national team.
“We have to stop talking rubbish. Intrinsically the Japanese are not better than the French.
“But why did the Japanese outshine us. It is the question that one should pose.
“Because they had a game plan. The answer to reviving the national team lies with the players who are in the clubs.
“They (the selectors) have to make the effort to uncover this talent in the Top 14 and the second tier.”