All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will take a six-month break from rugby at the end of the year.
The World Cup-winning skipper will start the sabbatical after New Zealand's end-of-year tour to Europe in a move designed to prolong his career to the 2015 World Cup.
Todd Blackadder, coach of McCaw's Super Rugby team the Crusaders, told New Zealand media on Sunday that the 31-year-old flanker will invoke a clause in his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union that allows him to take a "sabbatical."
The decision means McCaw will miss a three-Test series against France in June and the majority of the 2013 Super 15. He is unlikely to be available for the Crusaders before July.
Blackadder told the Sunday Star-Times: "it is definitely going to happen. Richie is going to take a sabbatical. He won't be available for the Tests or Super rugby so he's going to get a good break."
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 No.8 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.