Highlanders prop Chris King off to France

OFF TO FRANCE: Chris King is headed north for the next European rugby season.
OFF TO FRANCE: Chris King is headed north for the next European rugby season.

French rugby club Montpellier have signed Highlanders prop Chris King for next season.

The club's website said King's arrival on a one-year deal would further bolster the team's front row, already strengthened by the signing of French international David Attoub.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said King would head overseas with the franchise's blessing after providing tremendous service to New Zealand rugby.

''It's a nice way for him to sign off,'' Clark said.

The 33-year-old, who can play both sides of the scrum, started his provincial career in 2002 with Canterbury and has also represented Otago and Taranaki, along with playing 51 games for Southland.

After three seasons with the Crusaders, he has played for the Highlanders since 2005, bringing up his 100th game for the southern franchise earlier this season.

Montpellier, which finished runners-up to Toulon in this year's top-14 competition, have a strong New Zealand connection, including former All Black Rene Ranger, Otago No 8 Paul Grant and Canterbury prop Paea Fa'anunu.

The Highlanders are on the hunt for frontrowers, having already lost Craig Millar to a shoulder injury for the rest of the season.

Argentinian international Matias Diaz was initially signed for this season only and any replacement for King is likely to come from the national provincial championship.

Otago's Scott Manson and Southland's J P Koen have both been training with the Highlanders this week in the buildup to Friday's trial game against a New Zealand Barbarians side in Invercargill.

The Southland Times