All Blacks star and Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu has signed a long term deal with New Zealand Rugby but will miss next year's Super Rugby season.
The 38 Test lock has signed with NZR until 2025 but will take a sabbatical in Japan next season after this year's All Blacks campaign.
He's set to return back to Auckland mid next year.
Tuipulotu said while there was a desire to experience playing overseas, he and his family wanted to live in New Zealand long-term.
“In some ways winning the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title has made my decision easier, because we have got that monkey off our backs at the Blues. It was a hard decision because the Blues as a group have developed so well.
“I am excited for the new experience overseas and will be doing my best. Equally, I will be looking forward to returning to the Blues and my home in Auckland.
“I have big goals that I want to achieve both for my country and the Blues in the future.
“I am honoured that New Zealand Rugby and the Blues have shown so much faith in me, and this provides security for my family over the next few years to the likely end of my career.”
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said: “Patrick has gone from strength to strength in recent years, both on the field and maybe more importantly, off the field. He is held in high esteem by his peers, and has a strong, quiet strength about him.
“Whilst it’s sad to see him go in the short-term, we’re delighted that he has committed through to 2025.”
Blues CEO Andrew Hore said the club supported Tuipulotu’s plan to play in Japan.
“It will be a tremendous experience for him. We recognise that the recompense to play overseas is significant and a key opportunity for Patrick and his family,” he said.