Rugby: How Dane Coles is bucking All Blacks' 2024 trend with retirement decision

Amid a spate of All Blacks confirming their futures lie overseas post the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Dane Coles is bucking that trend.

Coles, 36, on Thursday confirmed he'll retire at the end of the upcoming season, bringing to an end his career as a professional.

This week alone, senior All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick have confirmed they'll leave New Zealand in 2024, with lucrative stints in Japan locked in.

The trio join the likes of Richie Mo'unga, Shannon Frizell and Ardie Savea with Japanese stints, with more All Blacks certain to follow.

Dane Coles for the Hurricanes.
Dane Coles for the Hurricanes. Photo credit: Getty Images

But Coles is different, and won't seek to finish his career in an overseas league, instead hoping to finish as a player wearing the silver fern at the World Cup in France. 

For Hurricanes coach Jason Holland - who's worked with Coles since 2016, when he captained the side to its first and so far only Super Rugby title - the decision to finish his professional career at home reinforces the values of the man.

"It probably says a lot about Colesy, and why he plays the game," Holland told Newshub. "There's a bit of an old-school touch that he has.

"While everybody wants to make money, it definitely isn't a massive priority of his. Playing for the Hurricanes, enjoying his footy and playing for the All Blacks is something that Colesy loves.

"Playing for Pōneke, his club in Wellington is something that he loves doing. 

Dane Coles.
Dane Coles. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I think Colesy's just that old-school guy who wants to enjoy his footy, be around his family and those sorts of things.

"It's probably a question for Colesy, but I know doing the best thing for his family and his club is around how they live their life, not so much other priorities."

So far, Coles' 84 test appearances sit second to only Keven Mealamu and Sean Fitzpatrick for All Blacks hookers, while only Richie McCaw and Kieran Read have scored more international tries by a forward.

And although Coles' battle for the All Blacks' starting hooker spot has seen him drop behind Codie Taylor and Samisoni Taukei'aho, the 36-year-old's status inside the team environment makes him a near-guaranteed selection for coach Ian Foster.

But for the Hurricanes, Coles' retirement and the impending exit of Savea, who'll have a Japanese sabbatical in 2024 before returning to New Zealand, leaves a headache in the leadership department.

However, for Holland, the examples set by his two senior charges inspires confidence that other players will step up in their places.

"They're two of the most influential leaders in New Zealand rugby in the last three or four years," he added. 

"It's obviously a big hole - hopefully Ardie will be back after his sabbatical, but for '24, it's definitely a big hole.

"There's been a big emphasis from those two guys in the growth of our leaders. We've got guys who are three or four-year Super [Rugby] players now who have learned a hell of a lot, and will fill those spaces.

"We've still got guys who are All Blacks, or really experienced players in our group. So, yes, it's definitely a big hole, [but] with the influence they've had on people over the last couple of years, they've got a real mindset to help people grow in that space.

"Just like in everyday life, some people leave and some people step up. Those two boys will continue to make sure that there's people who are still here in '24 that know how Dane Coles led, and bring that to the party when they're not here."

The Hurricanes begin their Super Rugby Pacific campaign on February 25, when they travel to face the Reds in Brisbane.