Veteran All Black Conrad Smith has confirmed he will take a six-month sabbatical at the end of this year's Rugby Championship.
The 31-year-old centre says he wants to take time out away from rugby to prolong his career through to the 2015 World Cup.
"Going to take a bit of a break, mainly to prolong my own
career," Smith told ONE News at the All Blacks wider training camp
at Mt Maunganui.
"When I sat down with the NZRU, they were keen for me to hang around for a bit longer.
"So to get two or three years out of me and even looking to the next World Cup, I felt I needed probably a longer break and not to be playing 10 months of every year."
The All Blacks last match in the championship is against South Africa on October 6. It means Smith will miss the end of season tour to France, England and Ireland.
"I could go one or two years and maybe that would be it but if I had longer breaks, and I think most guys would say the same, then you can see yourself playing maybe three more years," Smith said.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he supported the 66-Test veteran's decision.
"I'd rather he went on a sabbatical than retire," he told media today.
"There's still a lot of rugby left in him, it's just an indicator that players need to step out, get that decent break, get their bodies right."
Smith says that is practically impossible when players are playing 10 months of the year.
"You just play that long and its that busy a schdule that you can't do much else," he said.
Smith managed to get away to Africa last Summer, even if he could not fully escape rugby, and he plans to do more travel during this break.
The NZRU has structured several players' contracts to allow them a break from rugby, captain Richie McCaw is currently unavailable until the end of June, while Hansen believes the trend is likely to continue.
"Until such time as we can get a global season, if we get those 16 weeks that everyone seems to think are the golden figure to be able to recharge the batteries, I think we probably will see sabbaticals in contracts," he said.
First five-eighth Daniel Carter also has a sabbatical clause in his contract and has indicated he may exercise that in 2014 in order to try to extend his career through to the All Blacks' World Cup defence in England in 2015.
If such arrangements mean more familiar faces sticking around until the 2015 World Cup, Hansen will not be complaining.