Rugby: All Blacks, Chiefs halfback Brad Weber confirms departure for Europe next year

All Blacks and Chiefs halfback Brad Weber has become the latest high-profile player to announce his departure after this year's Rugby World Cup.

On Friday, the 18-test international confirmed he'd head to Europe at the end of 2023.

Newshub understands he's signed a multi-year deal with Top 14 side Stade Francais.

"It is with a heavy heart that I confirm that this season will be my last at the Chiefs, a team that has meant so much to me and my family over the past 10 years," Weber said.

"I would have loved to see out my career at the Chiefs, but I am also very excited to try something different, taking on a new challenge in Europe, playing and living abroad.

"I'd like to thank everyone involved at the Chiefs during my time here and all the Chiefs fans who have supported me over the last decade. I've genuinely loved every moment.

"I'm not done here just yet, though. The goal is to win a championship this season, so I look forward to going out with a bang."

The Hawke's Bay Magpie veteran has been a fixture for the Chiefs, playing 118 matches for the Hamilton-based franchise, since his 2014 debut.

After a decade with the Chiefs, Weber, 32, says the "timing was right" to explore a new challenge and open the door for the next generation of halfbacks to take the reins and flourish.

"It was very tough, but once the deal came across my desk, the chance to play in Europe in a top competition and do something different really started to appeal to me," he said. "Cortez [Ratima] and Xavier [Roe] are here - it's probably time for them to take over next year.

"I don't' want to stunt their development and if I stuck around, maybe that happens, maybe we lose one of them and I didn't want that to happen."

"I feel like we're pretty blessed in the halfback stocks here, so I know I'm leaving them in a pretty good spot."

In 2021, he was named co-captain, alongside flanker Sam Cane, by coach Clayton McMillan, who describes Weber as an "integral player and leader".

"It's never ideal when you lose players of his calibre, but it's much easier to accept when they have given everything to the jersey, which Brad has done in spades," McMillan said.

"I can't speak highly enough of him as a bloke. It's a fantastic opportunity and he will go at the end of the season with our full backing."

Weber in action for the Chiefs.
Weber in action for the Chiefs. Photo credit: Getty Images

Weber made his test debut in 2015 and was recalled four years later for the World Cup in Japan, but has since remained on the fringe of test selection.

He was overlooked for the July series against Ireland and the Rugby Championship last year, joining the All Blacks XV on their whistlestop tour to England and Ireland, before linking up with the All Blacks for their annual European tour.

His form for the Super Rugby Pacific frontrunners this season should have him firmly in the frame for coach Ian Foster's All Blacks World Cup squad, where he'll face stiff competition from the likes of Finlay Christie and Folau Fakatava for the right to back up incumbent No.9 Aaron Smith.

Weber confirms he still has his sights on securing a seat on the plane to France later this year.

"Of course I do," he said. "I'm still signed until the end of the year, so the World Cup still very much in play.

"That's the goal."

Smith will also head offshore after the World Cup, joining Japan's Toyota Verblitz, where he'll join All Blacks teammate Beauden Barrett.

Weber will join Chiefs teammates Pita Gus Sowakula (Clermont), Alex Nankivell (Munster) and Brodie Retallick (Kobe), who will all make their way overseas after their 2023 campaigns.

On Saturday, Weber will co-captain the Chiefs - who are five points clear atop the ladder - for their clash against the Hurricanes at Wellington's FMG Stadium.

Join Newshub at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the Chiefs v Hurricanes Super Rugby Pacific clash

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