All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is to take an extended break from rugby, sitting out next year's Super 15 championship and the June Tests against France, Crusaders officials confirmed on Sunday.
The talismanic openside flanker and three-times IRB player of the year is to enact the six-month sabbatical clause in his contract in the hope it will help extend his playing days through to the next World Cup in 2015.
"It is definitely going to happen," Todd Blackadder, the coach of McCaw's Crusaders Super 15 side, told the Sunday Star-Times.
"Richie is going to take a sabbatical. He will probably be available after June. He won't be available for the Tests or Super Rugby, so he's going to get a good break."
The 31-year-old McCaw will play in the All Blacks remaining Rugby Championship matches against Argentina and South Africa over the next two weeks and the end-of-year tour to Europe before taking to the sidelines.
"He's going to see the season out with the All Blacks, then have a break. It will freshen him up and he'll come back and be good for the next couple of years," Blackadder said.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen also said he was in favour of McCaw having a break.
"If we want to get him through to the next World Cup, then it would be a good idea if he uses it at some point," he said before the team left for Argentina on Saturday night.
McCaw will be the second All Black to take a sabbatical, an option on offer to leading players in an attempt to keep them in New Zealand instead of chasing lucrative contracts overseas. Fly-half Dan Carter took extended leave in 2008.
All Blacks backrower Kieran Read has been confirmed as the Crusaders captain for next year and has also been tipped as a future leader of the All Blacks.