Ronan O’Gara is to be released early from his contract with Racing 92 to take up a coaching role with Super Rugby champions the Crusaders.
Former Ireland fly-half O’Gara, who joined Racing as an assistant coach in July 2013, will begin his new role in New Zealand from 1 January 2018.
A statement released by Racing on Wednesday confirmed O’Gara would be released at the end of December.
The 40-year-old’s contract had been due to run until 2019.
The French club’s statement indicated that they “did not want to deprive one of its faithful servants of a great opportunity”.
O’Gara joined the coaching set-up at Racing after retiring from playing and his time in French club rugby coincided with Racing’s thrilling Top 14 title win in 2016.
The chance to join Scott Robertson’s team and contribute to their defence of the Super Rugby title they won at the start of August will give the former Ireland 10 the chance to “enrich his rugby knowledge and perfect his training methods”.
Although O’Gara had been contracted to Racing until 2019, president Jacky Lorenzetti agreed to let him go and, along with club managers Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers, wished him well.
Racing are currently sixth in the Top 14 table, having won five of their nine matches including a 40-29 success against Toulon at the Stade Mayol on Sunday.
Their two Champions Cup matches have comprised a victory over Leicester Tigers and a defeat by Munster.
Before leaving France, O’Gara will help prepare Racing for a vital home-and-away double-header against Castres.