Carter the All Black wizard signs for a spell at Perpignan

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The Independent Online

The New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter has signed a six-month deal with the French side Perpignan.

Carter, 26, will join the Catalan club in December, at the end of New Zealand's tour of the northern hemisphere, and will stay in France until next June. He will miss the Crusaders' 2009 Super 14 campaign but be available to play for the All Blacks after that. Carter has been given a special exemption from his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union in order to take a "sabbatical".

The NZRU previously barred players from national selection if they went overseas. The union has had to soften its approach after a mass exodus of internationals to the comparatively lucrative European club competitions. Since the 2007 World Cup big names including Carl Hayman, Jerry Collins, Luke McAlister and Chris Jack have moved to European clubs.

Carter, a former International Rugby Board player of the year, will remain in New Zealand after returning from France as the All Blacks prepare for the 2011 World Cup at home.

"I would like to thank the NZRU for offering me this unique opportunity," he said in a statement. "The All Black jersey is no one's by right and I fully appreciate that I will have to continue to play well and prove myself if I am to be involved with the All Blacks next year and beyond.

"The 2011 Rugby World Cup is going to be a phenomenal event and my priority has always been to be available to take part in that."

Carter, New Zealand's highest scorer in Tests, also considered an offer from Toulon, where a former All Black captain, Tana Umaga, is coach. He chose Perpignan because they were involved in the French Top 14 and the Heineken Cup.

"If I am going to play in Europe I want to test myself against the best Europe can offer," he said. "I am excited about the challenges the Top 14 and the European Cup will bring."

The Gloucester and Wales No 8 Gareth Delve will have surgery next month to assess the extent of the injury to his left knee. The 25-year-old damaged his anterior cruciate ligament during Wales's summer tour to South Africa and will miss the start of next season.

The former Australia rugby league international Les Kiss has been named as Ireland's new defence coach. His appointment continues the restructuring under new head coach Declan Kidney and follows the recent appointment of Gert Smal as forwards coach.