Key All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby through 2023.
NZR confirmed the news on Wednesday, while noting Retallick will take a two-year sabbatical following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
It means the Chiefs standout won't play test rugby until 2021 on a deal similar to fellow All Blacks star Sam Whitelock who will the 2020 Super Rugby and test match campaigns as he takes up a short-term deal with Japanese club Panasonic.
Retallick's deal slightly differs to Whitelock's. The 28-year-old will play in the Japan Top League for two seasons, then return home in May 2021 after an extended two-year break, missing two full Super Rugby seasons.
"It has been a big decision to make, but I'm grateful to be able to have the opportunity to head over to Japan and experience, not just the rugby but for my family and to be immersed in another culture," Retallick said in a statement.
"I've been playing high-octane rugby with the Chiefs and All Blacks since 2012, and while I've loved every minute of it and my workload has been managed well, I've decided to give my body a break from the New Zealand game, so that ultimately I can extend my career here.
"I'm lucky enough to work with a great group of people in both the Chiefs and All Blacks – they're two teams I love to play for – so I look forward to returning in 2021."
Retallick, the world rugby player of the year in 2014 is finally set to return to action this weekend against the Rebels as his Chiefs push for playoff rugby after recovering from a serious wrist injury.
Current national coach Steve Hansen believes Retallick's commitment to New Zealand Rugby long-term is exciting for the future of the All Blacks.
"Whilst there's a playing sabbatical during that time - and Brodie will no doubt be missed - it also gives the future All Blacks coaches the opportunity to build even more depth in that position," Hansen said.
"I congratulate NZR on being inventive in their contracting process, as there would have been many offers for him to leave permanently.
"Brodie is one of the best locks to ever play the game, if not the best, and has given his all for the All Blacks jersey year in year out.
"Under this arrangement he'll extend his career in New Zealand, which is great for everyone."
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