All Blacks Captain and Crusader's centurion, Kieran Read, has confirmed that 2019 will be his swansong year in New Zealand Rugby.
33-year-old Read will join Japanese club Toyota Verblitz next year at the end of what will be his 13th season of professional rugby in New Zealand. He has played 118 Test matches to date since making his debut in November 2008, 43 as Captain, and 145 Crusaders games.
"Every young rugby player in New Zealand dreams of the opportunities I have had to represent the All Blacks and the Crusaders, and I know I'll look back at the end of the year with a great deal of pride to have worn those jerseys for as long as I have," Read said.
"My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture as part of the Toyota club.
"I feel the time is right to make this announcement on my playing future, so that I can focus my efforts on the season ahead."
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said: "We want to wish Kieran all the very best for his swansong season in New Zealand Rugby. He's been one of the most influential players in the world in his 13 years at the top of the professional game, an outstanding and hugely-respected All Blacks Captain, and an All Blacks centurion. We owe 'Reado' and others like him, who have given so much to our teams, a huge debt of gratitude. We wish him, wife Bridget and his family all the best for their adventures next year."
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "On behalf of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, I'd like to acknowledge the fantastic contribution that Reado has made to our game. His performances on the park speak for themselves: he's played 118 Tests and started 111 of them, which is an outstanding achievement.
"However, that is only part of the Kieran Read story. His contribution off the park has been just as impressive. He's developed into a fantastic leader, who has the utmost respect of all his peers. What he has achieved has been remarkable, and its fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game who has enhanced the legacy of not only the All Blacks jersey but also the Crusaders jersey. We wish him, Bridget and the kids all the very best in their next rugby chapter."
Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said: "Kieran Read is one of the great Crusaders. We are fortunate to have a number of players who have spent their entire Super Rugby careers in red and black, and Kieran stands out as one of those players whose loyalty and leadership are undisputed.
"After 13 seasons in the Crusaders jersey, he'll depart New Zealand at the end of the year with our heartfelt thanks and very best wishes. In the meantime, we look forward to one final season with him in 2019."
Crusaders Coach Scott Robertson has also paid tribute to Read, adding: "His contribution to the Crusaders over the past 145 games goes without saying, but it's Reado's influence as a member of our leadership group that will be a huge part of the legacy he leaves here.
"He still has a big role to play in the season ahead, and while we'll certainly miss Reado and his family here at Rugby Park come the end of our 2019 campaign, I know the boys will be determined to give him the send-off he deserves."