Julian Savea in action for the Hurricanes. Photo: Marty Melville/www.Photosport.nz

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Former All Blacks wing Julian Savea confirmed Monday he was joining the French Top 14 club Toulon at the end of the Super Rugby season.

Speculation that the blockbusting Savea, known as "The Bus", had signed a lucrative contract to move north has been swirling for some time but the wing and rugby officials refused to comment. However, New Zealand Rugby broke the silence late Monday with a statement saying Savea had confirmed he would be leaving to join Toulon.

"Julian goes with our blessing and we know that French rugby fans will quickly embrace him as their own.  We thank Julian for his contribution to rugby in New Zealand and we wish him and his family well for their move to Toulon," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.

Savea played 54 tests for the All Blacks and scored 46 tries, second only to Doug Howlett on the all-time try-scoring records for New Zealand. All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen described Savea as "a devastating ball runner who inspired others with his physicality and try-scoring prowess".

The 27-year-old has played more than 120 Super Rugby games for the Wellington Hurricanes and was a member of the side that won the Super championship in 2016. France captain and Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud said last week, when talk of the formidable wing's departure emerged, that it was "big news for us, one of the best wingers in the world, I'm just happy for the club".

Savea last played for the All Blacks in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions last year. There are vacancies looming at Toulon with the departure of Fijian Semi Radradra and former All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu.

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