Benji Marshall has been stripped of the New Zealand rugby league captaincy ahead of this year's World Cup.
Marshall was relieved of the captain's armband by coach Stephen Kearney who says the decision was made in the best interests of the team.
"It was a very tough conversation," said Kearney in a statement.
"Benji is an immensely proud New Zealander and his desire was to continue in the captaincy role.
"Although this decision has been a difficult one, it has been made in the best interests of the team and Benji will remain an integral part of the Kiwis going forward."
Marshall, 29, played a key role in New Zealand's shock World Cup final defeat of Australia in 2008, with the West Tigers playmaker The Wests scoring a try and kicking two conversions in the 34-20 win.
New Zealand Rugby League's general manager of high performance Tony Kemp said: "Because of who he is, he carries a massive workload for rugby league in general.
"Our respect for him is immense and we appreciate that he's hurting now but we believe this decision will ultimately lift some weight from Benji and give the Kiwis every opportunity to defend the Rugby League World Cup."
The new captain will be named at a press conference in Auckland on Friday with Warriors captain Simon Mannering the leading contender.
source: newshub archive