All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock chased by wealthy French club Toulon

Mourad Boudjellal, the president of rich French club Toulon, is reported to have sounded out All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock about a move to Europe.

Whitelock, who is off contract with NZ Rugby after the All Blacks' series against the British and Irish Lions this winter, would be a prized signing for Toulon who are on the hunt for a world-class second rower to embed in their pack.

If Boudjellal managed to snare the signature of the 28-year-old Whitelock, who has played 84 tests since 2010, it would be considered a blow for NZ Rugby who have recently re-signed valued employees Ben Smith and Israel Dagg.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read has already signalled he is keen to re-sign through to the 2019 World Cup.

Toulon, the current French club champions, already have former All Blacks midfielder Ma'a Nonu on their books and French publication L'Equipe said another New Zealander - Whitelock - is also being targeted.

Whitelock, when recently questioned about his future plans, gave little away, but there is no doubt he would command a hefty salary, potentially in excess of a million dollars a year if he shifted to France.

"I'm off (contract) at the end of the Lions, so I'm going through that at the moment," he said. "We will get there when we do it. I am just looking forward to Super Rugby and when that quietens down we will get into that."

Whitelock wouldn't say whether any overseas clubs had contacted him, or his agent, to see if a move elsewhere appealed. If he did opt to leave New Zealand it would result in him snapping the reliable partnership he had formed with fellow All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, since the latter made his test debut in 2012.

In addition to being one of the best lineout operators in the business, Whitelock, who this year replaced Read as Crusaders captain, is also a work-hungry ball carrier and a member of the All Blacks' leadership group.

Other All Blacks locks contracted to NZ Rugby beyond 2012 include Patrick Tuipulotu, Luke Romano and Scott Barrett.

All Blacks first five-eighth Aaron Cruden recently announced he will join French club Montpellier later this season, while loose forward Steven Luatua has agreed terms with English side Bristol.



Photo: Getty Images (Sam Whitelock's contract with NZ Rugby expires after the All Blacks play the British and Irish Lions. Here he competes with Pieter-Steph Du Toit of South Africa in Christchurch last year).