All Blacks forward Jerome Kaino heading to France

Kaino played 81 Test matches for the All Blacks.
Kaino played 81 Test matches for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

All Blacks forward Jerome Kaino has announced his departure from New Zealand Rugby.

The 34-year-old will make his way to France at the end of the current Super Rugby season, where he'll likely join Toulouse.

"After much speculation I want to confirm that I will be leaving NZ Rugby at the end of the 2018 Blues campaign," Kaino said via social media.

"I want to thank NZR, Auckland Rugby, the Blues and the All Blacks for the opportunities and constant development I have been given. My coaches, managers, physios, Docs, staff, sponsors, media for the years of support and guidance. 

"Finally and most importantly to my FAMILY and the FANS the people who have made my career here in NZ such a special experience, you have been amazing, I will forever be grateful."

Kaino leaves behind a decorated career in New Zealand which includes two World Cup wins and a nomination for World Player of the Year in 2011 through a total of 81 Tests. He'll likely be remembered as one of, if not the, greatest All Blacks No. 6 ever.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised Kaino for a "distinguished" tenure in the black jersey and his imposing skillset.

"He brought a physicality and skill level to his game which made him the best in the world in his position. He can be rightly proud of everything he has achieved in the All Blacks," he said in a statement.

Blues coach Tana Umaga was quick to praise his side's talisman and insisted the focus would be to send him off in a winning fashion.

"We certainly salute and honour Jerome for his incredible contribution to this club both on and off the field," he said.

"We are just at the start of a very important Super Rugby campaign and Jerome has a big part to play in that.  Our players will want to send him off in the best possible way by our work on the field and building performances."

Kaino took a sabbatical after the World Cup in 2011 in order to spend a season with Japanese side Toyota Verblitz before returning to NZ Rugby.

He'll finish his career as the as the third most capped Blues player in history (127) behind Keven Mealamu (164) and Tony Woodcock (137).

Newshub.