The chances of former All Blacks lock Jason Eaton returning to play for Taranaki in this year's national provincial championship are nil after he signed a two-year contract to play in France.
Eaton, 31, will link up with newly promoted France Top 14 side La Rochelle, who also announced the signatures of Australian Alofa Alofa and ex-Springbok Peter Grant at the weekend.
Although he has been playing for Stratford in the Taranaki premier club competition, and had been in talks with the union over a possible contract for 2014, his first preference was always to try to secure something in Europe.
Eaton has not played for Taranaki since he made the last of his 52 appearances in 2012.
Although he played the next season for the Hurricanes he opted to skip the NPC in favour of taking up a short-term contract in Japan with the NTT Shining Arcs.
The 14-test All Black then returned to New Zealand where he was living in Wellington but still travelling to Taranaki to turn out for Stratford.
He could have provided Taranaki with a worthy option in the second row, especially after the loss of Jarrad Hoeata, who signed a three-year deal with the Cardiff Blues.
Although they still have Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst on their books for 2014, Taranaki appear to be thin on back-up options.
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has already stated he will use captain Kane Barrett at lock through the NPC campaign, with No 8 Blade Thomson seen as back-up.
Confirmation that Eaton will not be in the mix must open the door for Tukapa's Leighton Price.
The former Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty representative is the best lineout exponent in the province, while his work around the field is also of a high standard.
- Taranaki Daily News
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