Ti'i Paulo has signed with French club Clermont-Auvergne.
Hooker Paulo, who is expected to start for the Crusaders against the Queensland Reds on Saturday night because Corey Flynn is still nursing a sprained ankle, will link with former Crusaders assistant coach Vern Cotter at Clermont.
Paulo's contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union and Canterbury expires at the end of this year and despite making his Crusaders' debut in 2005, he has made only 21 appearances for the franchise because of injury and the presence of All Black Flynn.
In 2008, Paulo was the starting hooker when the Crusaders won their seventh Super 14 title, but missed last year's competition because he was recovering from a knee reconstruction. His partner, Frankie, is due to have their first child soon and Paulo said he was eager to plan for their future. A former New Zealand under-21 captain, he made his provincial debut for Canterbury in 2002, has also played for Tasman and is considered a valuable leader in the Crusaders squad.
Cotter is also understood to be eager to sign former All Blacks Carl Hayman and has offered him a multimillion-dollar deal. Hayman is playing with English club Newcastle and is also being courted by the NZRU who are eager to get him back ahead of next year's World Cup. Cotter assisted Robbie Deans at the Crusaders in 2005 and 2006.
Paulo is the second Crusader to confirm this will be his last Super 14, with Tim Bateman leaving for Japan.
- © Fairfax NZ News