Canterbury and Crusaders midfield back Adam Whitelock has announced he will be taking up a contract with French rugby club, Bayonne, at the conclusion of this ITM Cup season.  Whitelock, who has played over 50 games for both the Crusaders and Canterbury ITM Cup team, said it was a difficult decision to make but he is now excited about the opportunity ahead.

"I have had the most amazing six years playing for these teams.  I have been fortunate enough to play with my three brothers for much of the time that I have been here and also with such an awesome group of players, coaches and management.  It is going to be really tough saying goodbye to all of those people and to Christchurch, but playing in France is something I've always wanted the chance to do and I believe the timing is right," Whitelock said.  "I would like to say thank you to everyone at Canterbury Rugby and the Crusaders who has helped me become the player and person I am today.  Thank you also to the fans and the community for all of their support."

Adam made the move from Manawatu to Christchurch to study at Canterbury University in 2006.  He played in the Canterbury under-19s and Canterbury Colts before making his debut for the Canterbury team in 2008, so has been involved in all of the last six Premiership-winning teams.  He was picked up by the Crusaders the following year and has played 56 games for them since then.  He has also had a stint in the NZ Sevens team, being selected for the Glasgow and London legs of the 2013/14 IRB World Sevens Circuit.  Coach Gordon Tietjens said at the time that it was his reputation as the fittest member of the Canterbury and Crusaders squads that earned him the spot.  

"I have had so many great experiences playing rugby in New Zealand and I am grateful for every one of them.  I still have this ITM Cup season to play out as well and although we have a lot to do and some really tough teams to play, I am determined to give everything I've got to this team as we head into the playoffs and a tilt at our seventh title," Whitelock said.

Canterbury and Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach said Whitelock has been a huge asset to both organisations and will be sorely missed: "Adam, along with his brothers, George, Sam and Luke, has been a core member of these teams for a number of years now.  We realise how fortunate we are that the Whitelocks chose to call Canterbury home and it was Adam who was the first to move here.  We have thoroughly enjoyed having Adam around for the last six years and wish him only the best for the future."

Crusaders Coach Todd Blackadder said Adam's professionalism and work ethic have made him a shining example for other players to look up to: "Adam is one of the hardest workers in this team.  He is consistently the fittest member of the squad but still strives to become better every year.  He is the ultimate professional and has been an absolute pleasure to work with.  We'll all miss his presence around here."

Canterbury Coach Scott Robertson also acknowledged Adam's significant contribution on and off the field: "Adam is a coach's dream – you know that he will give his all every single time, and he motivates those around him through his actions. He is such a humble and understated guy that he probably isn't even aware just how significant his contribution to this team has been.  Knowing that it will be Adam's last season with Canterbury will give this team even more motivation to give the rest of this ITM Cup campaign their best shot and make it a fitting farewell for their good mate."

Whitelock has signed a 20-month contract with Bayonne and will begin shortly after the ITM Cup season is over.