The Press

Fekitoa takes the big bucks in Toulon

- Fairfax NZ

Highlander­s midfielder Malakai Fekitoa has confirmed he’s leaving New Zealand rugby for France.

The 24-test All Black posted on his Instagram account on Friday, saying he has signed a two year deal with French club giant Toulon.

‘‘I wanted to let you all know that after a lot of thought I have decided to join Toulon (RCT) at the end of the year,’’ Fekitoa said.

‘‘It has been the hardest decision of my life to leave New Zealand, but after looking at all the things that are important to me I feel this is the right time for me personally and for my career.’’

Fekitoa’s departure has been a talking point all season, after he admitted he had been in contact with foreign clubs in the lead up to the Highlander­s’ opening Super Rugby match in February.

He’s battled to find the form which propelled him into the All Blacks in 2014-15.

Speculatio­n he would leave New Zealand went through the roof when he missed out on the initial All Blacks squad for the recent test series against the British and Irish Lions.

An injury to Ryan Crotty and a suspension to Sonny Bill Williams resulted in him getting called up for the third test at Eden Park, where he made a brief appearance off the bench in the 15-15 draw.

In what could be his final game in New Zealand, Fekitoa will start at centre for the Highlander­s in their Super Rugby quarterfin­al against the Crusaders in Christchur­ch on Saturday night.

The Highlander­s haven’t given up hope the man who played a key role in them winning their maiden Super title in 2015 will be back, thanking the Tongan-born midfielder via social media.

‘‘Mala, thank you for an amazing ride over the past four seasons and the 60+ games you’ve laced up the boots for us.

‘‘We wish you the very best for your OE and hope to have you back in the Highlander­s in 2020. Thank you and good luck.’’

Fekitoa will join former All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Luke McAlister at Toulon.

The Highlander­s will also farewell pivot Marty Banks and wing Patrick Osborne but wing Waisake Naholo re-signed yesterday with the franchise.

 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ?? Malakai Fekitoa will farewell the Highlander­s at the end of the Super Rugby season for Toulon.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES Malakai Fekitoa will farewell the Highlander­s at the end of the Super Rugby season for Toulon.

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