Veteran centre Conrad Smith will be unavailable for the All Blacks’ tour of Europe in November after choosing to take a break from rugby.
Smith will invoke a clause in his New Zealand Rugby Union contract to take a “sabbatical”, similar to breaks enjoyed by two other senior All Blacks – Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.
The 31-year-old will be available for all All Blacks duty this year apart from the three-Test tour which comprises Tests against France, England and Ireland.
He plans to return to play for the Hurricanes at some point during next year’s Super Rugby competition.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen supports the move, which Smith says is partly to prolong his career through to the 2015 World Cup in England.
“We can only support that. I’d rather he went on a sabbatical than retire,” Hansen said at the All Blacks training group’s camp in Mt Maunganui.
“There’s still a lot of rugby left in him, it’s just an indicator that players need to step out, get that decent break, get their bodies right.”
Smith has scored 23 tries in 65 Tests since 2004 and has played in 54 of the All Blacks’ 69 Tests since the 2007 World Cup, forging a potent midfield union with former Hurricanes teammate Ma’a Nonu.
Five-eighth great Carter’s sabbatical in 2009 involved a lucrative stint at French club Perpignan which ended early when he injured his achilles tendon. He is reportedly planning another one for next year.
All Blacks skipper McCaw is nearing the end of a six-month break to travel, but will miss the three-Test home series against France next month.
Meanwhile, Smith confirmed on Tuesday he has been cleared of concussion suffered in the Hurricanes’ loss to the Bulls at Pretoria on May 4 and is available for Friday’s game against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Smith was knocked unconscious for nearly a minute when injured trying to make a tackle.