Blues prop joins All Black exodus after signing with Top 14 club

Blues prop joins All Black exodus after signing with Top 14 club

All Blacks and Blues tighthead prop Nepo Laulala will join a Top 14 club after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Blues confirmed the news on their social media accounts stating that he would be 'reunited with the 'Big Uce' in France'.

The Auckland-based Super Rugby Pacific side did not confirm which club Laulala would be joining, but reports in France have stated that he would be replacing former All Black tighthead Charlie Faumuina at Top 14 champions Toulouse.

Faumuina joined Toulouse in 2017 and has gone on to win three Top 14 titles and one Champions Cup trophy, playing over 80 games in his four seasons with the side.

The veteran prop is set to feature for Samoa at the 2023 Rugby World Cup before hanging up his boots.

Laulala made his Super Rugby debut in 2013 for the Crusaders and earned his first call-up to the All Blacks squad in 2015, playing four pre-Rugby World Cup Tests that year.

He switched to the Chiefs in 2016 and has become a regular squad member for club and country. He was part of the 2019 All Blacks squad which finished third at the Rugby World Cup before making the switch to the Blues in 2021.

Laulala signed a one-year contract extension with the Blues and New Zealand Rugby last year.

However, he has opted not to re-sign to remain in New Zealand and becomes the twelfth All Blacks player to sign a deal abroad.

He follows Test teammates Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (returning to league with the NZ Warriors), Alex Hodgman and Beauden Barrett (Toyota Verblitz) in leaving the Blues ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Fellow All Blacks forwards Sam Whitelock (Pau), Brodie Retallick (Kobelco Kobe Steelers), Shannon Frizell (Toshiba Brave Lupus) and Pita Gus Sowakula (Clermont) are also leaving.

Aaron Smith (Toyota Verblitz), Richie Mo'unga (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Leicester Fainga'anuku (Lyon) and Brad Weber are the All Blacks' backline players who have confirmed moves away from New Zealand.

The Blues also confirmed that prop Alex Hodgman would be departing the side, as will rising star Caleb Tangitau.

The side have made one signing ahead of next season, with promising 22-year-old lock Edward Annandale joining from Clermont.

Lock James Tucker and flanker Tom Robinson have also left the Blues, as has John Plumtree's son, Taine, who the Scarlets have targeted. Outside back, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens also departs the Dunedin outfit.

Meanwhile, Highlanders lock Josh Dickson has been unveiled as Toyota Verblitz's latest signing.

The 28-year-old leaves the side after 55 appearances and earned call-ups to the Maori All Blacks and the All Blacks XV.