WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The long All Blacks career of twice World Cup winner Jerome Kaino will come to an end at the close of this Super Rugby season when the loose forward leaves New Zealand to join a club in France, Rugby New Zealand said on Wednesday.
A huge physical presence in the All Blacks back row who was just as effective in the tackle and with ball in hand, Kaino started 76 of his 81 test matches, including the 2011 and 2015 World Cup finals.
The 34-year-old blindside flanker earned his 81st All Blacks cap in the third test against the British & Irish Lions in July before missing the remainder of the international season after reports about his personal life in the Australian media.
“Jerome will leave New Zealand rugby with our best wishes,” said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.
“He’s had a long and distinguished career in the All Blacks jersey and brought a physicality and skill level to his game which made him the best in the world in his position.
“He can be rightly proud of everything he has achieved in the All Blacks, which included helping win two Rugby World Cups.”
Kaino made his test debut against Ireland in Hamilton in 2006 and played his last match in the famous black shirt against the Barbarians at Twickenham in November.
He has already played 127 matches for the Auckland Blues and could overhaul Tony Woodcock as the player with the second most appearances for the Super Rugby franchise before he leaves for France.
New Zealand Rugby did not identify which French club had signed Kaino.
Another member of New Zealand rugby’s most successful generation, prop Wyatt Crockett, announced his retirement from international rugby on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Ken Ferris)