Another key player has been locked up by New Zealand Rugby, with Sam Whitelock re-signing with the Crusaders and the All Blacks until the end of 2023.
The test centurion joins Dane Coles, Ardie Savea, Richie Mo'unga, Nathan Harris and Joe Moody as recent re-signings that will see the All Blacks past the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
- Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi struggling to impress
- Retallick set for extended injury absence
- Super Rugby - Team of the Week
Coach Steve Hansen believes the 30-year-old will be pivotal to the All Blacks success during the next World Cup cycle.
"Knowing that he has recommitted for four more years is huge for the All Blacks, Crusaders and NZ Rugby," Hansen noted.
"Sammy is a very special player, an outstanding athlete and has been a hugely respected leader in our group for some time now."
Whitelock made his All Blacks debut against Ireland in New Plymouth, aged 21, in 2010.
The Palmerston North native is a two-time Rugby World Cup winner, five-time test captain and a 108-test veteran.
Whitelock said his decision was an easy one, given NZR was willing to grant him a Japanese sabbatical next year and dispensation for All Blacks selection.
"Ultimately, this decision allows me to take some time with my family to experience a new rugby environment in Japan, before coming back refreshed, and ready for the remainder of 2020 and beyond," Whitelock said.
"I'm pleased there is clarity around my playing future, so I can focus on the remainder of the 2019 season."
Whitelock will link up with Japanese club Panasonic following the World Cup, meaning he will be missing from the Crusaders 2020 Super Rugby campaign.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson believes keeping Whitelock in the long term far outweighs his loss for one season.
"Sam is one of the world's best locks, he's an inspirational leader, and draws the best out of myself as a coach and the playing group," Robertson said.
"As captain, Sam has laid the foundation within our leadership group to ensure the squad is in great shape next season and beyond.
"It's a testament to his character that he will return to our group in 2021 to continue adding to his legacy with NZ Rugby and the Crusaders.
"We hope Sam, Hannah and their young family have a great experience in Japan."
Join us for live updates of the All Blacks' 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.