Carter to take sabbatical
Christchurch - All Blacks star flyhalf Dan Carter said on Friday he will take an extended break from rugby next year to ensure he is fit for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The 31-year-old, the highest points scorer in international rugby, is under contract with New Zealand until the end of 2015 but has a clause allowing him to take a sabbatical.
He will take the breather after the All Blacks tour to Europe in November, which includes Tests against France, England and Ireland, meaning he will miss England's three-Test tour in June next year and most of the 2014 Super Rugby season.
Carter said he remained committed to the All Blacks and his Super Rugby club the Crusaders but wanted to "refresh and recover" after more than a decade of top-flight rugby.
"Ultimately, I want to play in the next Rugby World Cup in 2015," he said in a statement.
"To do that, it's important that I put myself in the best possible position, both physically and mentally."
The 95-Test veteran missed much of New Zealand's triumphant 2011 World Cup campaign with a groin strain and is keen to avoid a repeat of the situation in England in 2015.
"When you play the game full-time at this level it does take a toll on your body. I've had a few injury niggles over recent years, so I'm keen to ensure I do everything I can to recover fully from those and prolong my career," he said.
The New Zealand Rugby Union allows its top players to take sabbaticals as a way of extending their careers and fending off interest from wealthy overseas clubs.
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has recently returned from a lengthy break, crediting it with reinvigorating his love of the game.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said he had no problem with Carter's decision.
"(It) will allow Dan to do all the things he needs to do to give himself a chance to appear at the Rugby World Cup, and that's a huge positive for both us and him," he said.
Carter, the International Rugby Board player of the year in 2005 and 2012, is eligible to play club rugby during his sabbatical but said he wanted a complete break from the game.
"I looked all over, so Europe and Japan, just explored all the options, but not in too much depth," he said.
"I sort of realised it was more beneficial for me to actually take a step away from rugby and not try to play somewhere else.''
Carter said an added bonus would be the opportunity to spend more time with his first child, a baby boy named Marco who was born in March.
The pivot took a break from New Zealand rugby to play for French club Perpignan in 2008-09 but lasted only five matches before being sidelined by injury.