All Blacks captain Kieran Read has spurned the chance to hang up his boots for good after the World Cup, confirming he's signed a contract to play in Japan.
Despite being dogged by serious injury for the past two seasons, the champion Test No.8 has deemed there is more rugby in him.
Read will be 34 when he takes up a deal at Japanese Top League club Toyota Verblitz, the same age that his predecessor as All Blacks skipper, Richie McCaw, chose to retire from the game.
As well as the financial rewards, his wife and three children would benefit from the shift, he said.
"Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture," Read, who was previously linked with French club Racing 92, said.
The 2013 world player of the year has been among the game's elite loose forwards since his international debut in 2008.
He has started in 111 of his 118 Tests and been captain on 43 occasions, taking charge in 2016 after the departure of fellow-Crusaders loose forward McCaw, whose final act in rugby was to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second-straight time.
Reado has announced that 2019 will be his last in NZ 😢 What an incredible career which began with us in 2007! Read the full release over at https://t.co/r3GPTZLVHH #crusaderforlife 🙌🏽⚔️ pic.twitter.com/sAqKcVpgKN— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) March 6, 2019
The All Blacks have continued to thrive under Read, who has steered them to 37 victories at an 87 per cent win rate, bettered only by McCaw's 89 per cent for skippers of all nations to have led on more than 20 occasions.
Read's 25 Test tries is two shy of McCaw as the most by a tier-one nation forward.
While he is regarded as one of the world's premier lineout exponents and an explosive ball runner, Read's leadership had become his greatest asset, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
"He's developed into a fantastic leader who has the utmost respect of all his peers," he said.
"What he has achieved has been remarkable, and it's fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game."
Read had ongoing wrist problems in 2017 and last year was slowed by back surgery.
Such is his value, he has been granted an extended off-season which won't end until at least round six of Super Rugby.
A move to Japan will be less intense than taking up a French or English contract, which most leading All Blacks have migrated towards in recent seasons.