Wellington - All Black skipper Richie McCaw on Thursday dropped the strongest hint yet he will retire after this year's Rugby World Cup in England and bring his glittering career to an end.
The 34-year-old captain of New Zealand, the reigning world champions, admitted he was considering hanging up his boots but was not yet ready to make a definitive announcement, preferring to focus on the ongoing Super Rugby season with the Crusaders.
"Honestly, I haven't made any final decision but probably the likelihood is I'm not going to be playing next year," flanker McCaw said at a Crusaders' training session, in comments published on New Zealand Rugby's official website.
"But I don't want to be getting carried away now talking about those sorts of things when I am focusing about playing," added McCaw, one of rugby union's all-time great loose forwards.
"I want to really enjoy this year but, as I say, that's the likelihood and I don't want to make any big announcements because I don't think that would be right going into a season."
McCaw currently has 137 Test caps and is set to become rugby's most-capped international later this year, overtaking Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll (141) and Australia's George Gregan (139).
However, the openside flanker is renowned as the ultimate team man and helping the All Blacks become the first side to win back-to-back World Cups would rank higher for him than any individual accolade.
McCaw could earn mega-dollars with a French or Japanese club if he decided to retire from international rugby and continue playing at a lesser level.
But unlike many All Blacks, including the France-bound Dan Carter, he has never shown any interest in playing outside New Zealand and he insisted on Thursday that money was not a driving force.
"Everyone is motivated a bit differently and I've always said that is not the number one motivation," he said.
"Obviously, it is nice to play and get well looked after because of that but I've always said that if I was enjoying it and wanted to carry on playing then I would play here.
"If I'm not enjoying it and decide I've got to go off just play to earn some cash I think that would be pretty tough."
McCaw made his New Zealand debut against Ireland in 2001 and took over as skipper in 2006, becoming the first player to captain an international side for 100 Tests late last year.
He has been named world player of the year a record three times and, on home soil, led the All Blacks to their first World Cup title for 24 years in 2011, playing the entire tournament with a painful foot injury.
The All Blacks have won a staggering 87 percent of their matches under his leadership and the final goal of his career appears to be helping New Zealand win the World Cup abroad for the first time in England later this year.