33-year-old Smith will join French club Pau on a two-year deal at the end of what will be his 12th season of professional rugby in New Zealand.
“I have loved my time playing rugby in New Zealand and really looking forward to what will be my last season here, but it feels like the right time for me move on and try something different. 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,” Smith said.
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Smith exemplified everything that was great about the game of rugby.
“He is an outstanding person, one of New Zealand rugby’s most consistent players over the last decade and hugely respected by all who know him. We owe Conrad, and others who have represented their teams so well over many years, a great deal of gratitude.”
Tew said Smith’s influence in rugby had also extended beyond the playing field.
“With his well-known background in law, Conrad has also been involved as a player representative in the Players’ Collective negotiations for many years and has helped shape the current environment for all professional players. He will also leave a great legacy in that regard. We all look forward to enjoying his last season with us and also look forward to his return to New Zealand.”
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “On behalf of the All Blacks, I want to publicly acknowledge the outstanding contribution Conrad has made – and continues to make – to the All Blacks. He is a world-class player and leader in our team and we look forward to that continuing this season. We in the All Blacks wish both Conrad and his wife all the very best for their new adventures next season.”
Hurricanes Coach Chris Boyd added: “Conrad’s been such a committed Hurricane and Wellington Lions player over a long period of time, and epitomises what a great team man should be. We’re sad to see him go, but all good things must come to an end, and we certainly wish him well for the next stage of his life.
“There are not many players who have given 12 consecutive years of service to the same team, and we’re grateful for everything Conrad has contributed to both the Wellington and Hurricanes set-ups. He’ll always be a huge part of our history.”
Conrad Smith – mini biography
Born in the Taranaki town of Hawera, Conrad Smith is the most capped All Blacks centre and eighth most capped All Black of all time and has so far pulled on the famous black jersey in 85 Tests (with 81 Test starts, 25 Test tries and 76 wins in his 85 Tests, for a winning percentage of 90 percent). He is also the most capped Hurricanes player of all time with 110 appearances (21 tries) for the Super Rugby club. A leader in both the All Blacks and Hurricanes, he is blessed with pace, anticipation, the ability to read a game and defensive nous, and is held in high regard by coaches, players and fans alike. Smith was a relatively late bloomer in rugby, making his first real mark as a 21-year-old in 2003 for the Old Boys-University club in Wellington and made his provincial debut for Wellington that year. His Super Rugby debut the following year was cruelly cut short by injury but his immense potential and commanding performances later in the season saw him picked for the All Blacks year end tour to Europe. In his All Blacks Test debut against Italy he scored with his first touch of the ball. He became the most capped All Blacks centre in his 56th Test in 2012.