'Bittersweet' Savea to leave Toulon rugby, eyes New Zealand return

Wellington (AFP) –


Ex-All Blacks winger Julian Savea has announced his departure from Toulon, saying he plans to return to club rugby back home in New Zealand.

"Thank you to those who have supported me over the past two seasons here at RCT," he said, referring to the star-studded club's French initials.

"I will forever be thankful for this experience and my time in Toulon."

With the French season cut short by the coronavirus, Savea -- who won 54 caps for New Zealand -- said in an interview posted on his Instagram account that he would be "trying to get back into New Zealand rugby or find another contract".

"Very bittersweet moment not getting to end the season the way I wanted to, but also very excited for this next journey ahead of me," he said in a post on Wednesday.

He acknowledged the process may take five or six months given restrictions on travel.

"I want to thank all my brothers that I've played with over the past two seasons, you guys are very special to me and I've made some life-long friendships I will cherish forever."

Savea previously played for the Hurricanes Super Rugby side, in his native Wellington.

His announcement came as World Cup-winning winger Nehe Milner-Skudder revealed that he would play for Otago Highlanders in New Zealand's domestic Super Rugby competition rather than take up a planned three-year contract with Toulon.