WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett has decided to retire from international rugby immediately and will end his professional career with the Canterbury Crusaders at the end of the season.
Crockett, the most capped player in Super Rugby, said he would play for Tasman in New Zealand’s semi-professional provincial competition for the next two seasons.
The 35-year-old Crockett said the time away from his family — he estimated the All Blacks spent six months of the year away from home — had been an important factor in his decision.
“It’s tough on us, and it’s incredibly tough on our families as well,” Crockett told reporters in Christchurch on Tuesday. “I guess last year, I had thought about it and looked at some options.
“Over the summer, spending time with the family and reflecting on some different things, it became really clear to me that it was the right thing to do, and the timing was right.”
Crockett made his debut for the Crusaders in 2006 and has played 188 games for the eight-times champions. He has also played 71 tests for the All Blacks, mostly coming off the bench, since his debut against Italy in 2009.
Widely recognised by the Crusaders and the All Blacks as the consummate team man, Crockett said he could not place one above the other.
“To be honest, both of them mean equally as much to me,” Crockett added. “The Crusaders is a special group ... I aspired to play for, growing up, and also the All Blacks.
“Once I became an All Black, I thought ‘I never ever want to let this go’.”
Crockett’s departure from the test arena should not be an issue for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, with first choice loosehead prop Joe Moody expected back from a shoulder injury ahead of their three-test series against France in June.
Kane Hames, who stepped into the starting role last year in the absence of Moody, also impressed, while the Waikato Chiefs’ Atu Moli, who has principally played at tighthead being converted into a loosehead.
Tim Perry also went on the end-of-season tour with the All Blacks.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty