Sona Taumalolo admits it will be difficult to leave a Chiefs team he has become something of a cult figure for.
But at 30, the mobile loosehead prop said he had to think of his family's financial future and that was behind his signing for French Top 14 club Perpignan for 3 1/2 years.
Taumalolo spent the first two weeks of the Chiefs' three-week break overseas, meeting club officials in France, then holidaying.
"It's going to be a big move for me and my family," Taumalolo said. "Obviously I'm going to miss the Chiefs boys here ... but I can't do this forever.
"It is going to be hard, because it will always feel like my home here, but in my career I can't play forever so I couldn't see any other way but to go now."
He will have a week in New Zealand after the Chiefs' Super Rugby season – whenever that might be – and then he, his wife and his two girls, aged 2 years and 3 months, will head to France in time for pre-season training.
"I've been enjoying my rugby here but a new challenge has come up ... a different type of game, but I'll look forward to it." Taumalolo, who has eight test caps for Tonga having played for them in last year's Rugby World Cup, has little experience of France but did play for the Tonga Under-20 team there in 2000.
"They love scrumming and mauling and that type of stuff over there."
He said he and his family would find it hard at first to settle into a non-English-speaking country not knowing anyone.
But Taumalolo wants to go out of Chiefs rugby on a high note, winning a Super Rugby title for the first time.
That starts with the New Zealand Conference derby against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday night. Taumalolo did not play in the first game at the start of the season but is bound to be involved in the match 22 this time.
"Our focus this week is to get our set-piece – our scrum – to step up and hopefully if we can get on top there we can get easy ball for our backs to finish off.
"It is very exciting for me to finish my career off here on a high with the Chiefs, and if I get the chance to play, I'll be very excited," Taumalolo said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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