Rugby: Former All Black Julian Savea departs Toulon, set for New Zealand return

Former All Blacks wing Julian Savea is set to return to New Zealand, after parting ways with French side Toulon (RCT).

Savea joined Toulon from the Hurricanes in 2018, but failed to make an impact at the club, where he came under heavy scrutiny. 

Last month, the French Top 14 season was called off, due to the coronavirus pandemic, after completing 17 of the 26 scheduled matches. 

In an Instagram post, the 29-year-old describes his time in France as "not a pretty one", although "the highs definitely outweigh the lows".

"Thank you to those who have supported me over the past two seasons here at RCT. I will forever be thankful for this experience and my time in Toulon.

"Very bittersweet moment not getting to end the season the way I wanted to, but also very excited for this next journey ahead of me. I want to thank all my brothers that I've played with over the past two seasons, you guys are very special to me and I've made some lifelong friendships I will cherish forever.

"I want to thank @rctofficiel, the coaching staff and the management for always being good to us. It's been a long journey and not a pretty one either, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows." 

In a video with brother Ardie, Savea announced his intentions to return to New Zealand, opening up the possibility of a contract with Super Rugby Aotearoa, kicking off on June 13. 

"I'm open to anything," Savea says. "Ideally, I'd like the back with the 'Canes brothers [sic]. 

"If that doesn't happen, it could be another franchise, it could be Japan, it could be the NZ Warriors."

That leads to Ardie asking Julian if he's offered an NRL deal, would he make the switch? 

"I'd be silly not to," says Julian. "It's always been on my mind to make that transition, but I'll be grateful for anything." 

All Blacks teammate Nehe Milner-Skudder - who signed for Toulon, but never played a game due to injury - has signed with the Highlanders for the revamped competition.

Last year, outspoken Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal told French radio he would ask Savea for a "DNA test", as he failed to replicate the form that saw him score 46 tries in 54 tests for the All Blacks.

"I'm going to ask for a DNA test," Boudjellal told RMC Sport. "They must have swapped him on the plane.

"If I were him I would apologise and go back to my home country. I've told him that he was free to go and wasn't welcome at Toulon anymore."

Savea initially signed a two-year deal worth NZ$1.65m a season with Toulon, but took a pay cut for this season to remain with the team.