All Black and Blues hooker Keven Mealamu has announced he will extend his leave period for several weeks.
The Blues and NZRU announced today that the 102-Test veteran plans to start his Super Rugby season in March, instead of February.
The extended leave means he will miss the first three matches of the Blues' season and will return to the fray on 18 March after the Blues' bye and before they play the Waratahs in Sydney.
Mealamu has chosen to exercise one of several options negotiated in his latest NZRU contract which runs through to the end of 2013.
"It's a total break away from the routines of the game so that I can enjoy some downtime and chill out with my family before getting back into it in a few months' time.
"It's been a great season of All Blacks rugby but we were very disappointed with our Blues results this year so I am keen to come back strongly to contribute to a much better campaign in 2013," he said.
It also means that Mealamu will not captain the Blues next season.
"I have asked JK (Sir John Kirwan) to not appoint me as captain for the Blues in 2013 recognising that he and the team will want the skipper to lead from the start of the season. I am very grateful for the way JK has approached these matters to allow me to have this break."
Kirwan said he was supportive of Mealamu's desire to keep playing at the top level for as long as possible.
"We recognised that in order to do that for the long term, as well as give his best to the Blues next year, it would be important and very sensible for Keven to take a break at the start of the season.
"Relinquishing the captaincy followed naturally and it shows he is thinking of the team first which is what Keven always does," Kirwan said.
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