Twice-capped New Zealand utility back Francis Saili on Monday signed a two-year deal with Irish province Munster in a further blow to the All Blacks ahead of this year’s World Cup.
Saili, who made his All Blacks debut against Argentina in 2013, will move to the province later this year from the Auckland Blues after the completion of his 2015 contractual commitments.
The 24-year-old’s move follows that of rising All Blacks star Charles Piutau, who has signed a two-year contract to join Irish club Ulster in July 2016, nearly a year after the World Cup.
“We are really pleased that Francis has committed his future to the province,” Munster coach Anthony Foley told the province’s official website.
“He is a talented centre with an impressive skills-set and he possesses the physical attributes to excel in the northern hemisphere.
“I believe he will be a great addition to our backline and we look forward to welcoming him to Munster.”
Saili, who joins not only Piutau but also older All Black team-mates Dan Carter (Racing-Metro), Ma’a Nonu (Toulon) and Conrad Smith (Pau) in agreeing to ply his trade in the northern hemisphere, is looking forward to a fresh challenge.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I am fortunate to move to a club held in such high regard, with values and traditions I can relate to from my time here in the Blues,” he said.
“I believe I can continue to improve and grow within the Munster set-up.
“As difficult as it is to leave the Blues I look forward to the exciting challenge ahead.”
After Piutau’s move to Ulster was revealed, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said “commitment” would be a factor when determining the squad that will defend New Zealand’s world crown in England later this year, with New Zealanders based outside of the country not even in the running for selection.