RICHIE McCaw will take six months off rugby as the physical and mental strain begins to tell on the All Blacks captain.
McCaw has activated a clause in his New Zealand Rugby Union contract which allows him to take an extended break, and he will not be available for the Crusaders or the All Blacks until after June 2013.
He will still the national team on its end of year tour to Europe.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has told Fairfax newspapers that McCaw would not play for another club during the time off, and would most likely travel.
"It is definitely going to happen," Blackadder said. "He won't be available for the Tests or Super Rugby, so he's going to get a good break. "He had it written into his contract and he's elected to take it. He's going to see the season out with the All Blacks, then have a break. It will freshen him up and he'll be good for the next couple of years."
The 31-year-old has been the target of several cheap shots recently, including last weekend when he was hit in the face by Springboks prop Dean Greyling, for which the South African was yellow carded and suspended for two weeks.