Rugby: Brad Weber's warning for New Zealand Rugby as halfback moves on from missing All Blacks' World Cup tilt

Brad Weber became one of the leading athletes using their voice for positive change and now he is using it to express concerns with our national game.

The former All Black has left New Zealand to take up a contract in France and now can't help but feel worried about the state of the game here.

He's missing Toto and the ruby shoes, but as he steps out onto the deck of his Paris apartment, Weber knows he's not in Hamilton anymore. 

"There's the River Seine," he points out to Newshub over a video call. "It's under cloud, but the Eiffel Tower is just down there.

"She's going to be a fair bit of adjusting to, because I guess over the last 10 years, I've been pretty comfortable."

Comfortable in the New Zealand rugby bubble.

"I know the place, it's pretty easy living around there, so she's a bit of a change, but it's probably something I needed - a bit of a change out of my comfort zone," he said. "It's been good so far.

Brad Weber celebrates for the Chiefs with Damian McKenzie.
Brad Weber celebrates for the Chiefs with Damian McKenzie. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I probably would have loved to have just stayed in New Zealand and seen my career out there, and just ride off into the sunset eventually, but once the deal was presented to me, I sort of sat back and thought, in 10 years, when I'm sitting at a pub and looking back on my career, it's cool I'll be able to say I gave France a go."

Give France a go is exactly what he's doing.

Away from family - although they temporarily kept his apartment occupied, before Weber moved to Paris - the now former All Blacks halfback has linked up with Top 14 outfit Stade Francais.

"It's impressive," he said of the Paris powerhouse. "Everything you could ask for, you get.

"You get your stuff washed for you, there's breakfast and lunch every day.

"These guys don't know how good they've got it. It's unreal."

The facilities are far from what Weber had at the Chiefs and, most recently, Hawke's Bay. While he concedes never winning Super Rugby is a shame, Weber is thrilled he got to leave New Zealand with a Ranfurly Shield win.

After taking the step back from rugby in New Zealand, he can't help but reflect on what he describes as "an interesting time" for our national game.

"I'm not paid well enough to figure out ways to make it better and I guess I'd like to move into something like that maybe one day."

Weber pauses, clearly analysing how to word what he thinks.

"I've got heaps of little ideas, but then I feel like that old guy on the couch, just telling everybody what to do and I've got no real idea."

He does have some idea. Being a Super Rugby co-captain and an All Black certainly would stand him in good stead, as does still being connected to the community and provincial game.

"Super Rugby's certainly going to have to improve and make some sort of changes," Weber explained.

"At the grassroots level, people are dropping out, so around club level, there's not as much participation and hearing from some mates in club rugby, that's certainly the case. I guess we've got to find a way to keep guys in rugby.

"It's obviously not great. Our [under] 20s team hasn't performed well the last few years, so that's maybe alarm bells a little bit as well.

"I mean, we certainly need to address something, because it's obviously declined and we don't want it to decline any more.

"I think at the level it's at right now, it might be okay, but certainly, it can't get worse."

Weber is adamant not all hope is lost.

"I'd never bet against the All Blacks and NZ Rugby. We certainly always try to find a way.

"We might be in a tough spot at the moment, but I just still back the people that we've got. I still think we've got the right people that can turn it around."

Weber feels the game will always survive and that initiatives, such as under-85kg rugby are crucial for keeping those involved, as are other opportunities that are offered, such as for the rainbow community, whom Weber has been an advocate for.

"I just thought I was just some boneheaded rugby player that runs around the field every week. I was definitely really proud of the reaction from the rest of the rugby community, in particular the stuff around inclusion for everyone.

"Rugby's a game that's given me so much that I'd hate to think that, just because of the way that I was born or the way that I am, that stuff would get taken away.

"It's a sport for all ages, sizes, sexual preferences, religions, races. I've loved since how far we've come in terms of including everyone, and being really respectful of people and who they are."

Weber would like to see more athletes use their voices and profiles for change, as long as they're comfortable and passionate about it.

Brad Weber for the All Blacks.
Brad Weber for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I wouldn't want to just thrust something on someone that's not, you know, not confident or passionate about something.

"It doesn't have to be so out with the public on your own channels. There's certainly other ways to do it, if that's what you want, but certainly, it's great seeing some guys that I probably wouldn't have expected putting themselves out there."

He'll continue to be passionate about footy, although he concedes his final period with the All Blacks was tough. Part of a pre-World Cup camp, he then flew home, forced to watch, rather than play in the showpiece event.

"I definitely allowed myself to be a little bit pissed off in that," he reflects. "I allowed myself a few days just to be frustrated and just feel all those things.

"After a while, I put them to the side and realised that moping around wasn't going to do me too much good for too long, but I certainly allowed myself a couple of days to feel that.

"I wouldn't say it was easy, but I got over it pretty well and then the success that we had with Hawke's Bay certainly helped with that."

Now at peace with it all, it's back to parading the streets of Paris.