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 a break and he will not be available for the Crusaders or the All Blacks until after June.

Check out the Richie McCaw photo gallery.

However, he will lead Steve Hansen's men on the end of year tour to Europe.


"It is definitely going to happen," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder told Fairfax.

"Richie is going to take a sabbatical. He will probably be available after June. He won't be available for the tests or Super Rugby, so he's going to get a good break. We've worked this through with all parties and I fully support it.

"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 come back and be good for the next couple of years."

Dan Carter took an ill-fated sabbatical to play for Perpignan in France in 2008, which quickly ended in a snapped Achilles tendon.

McCaw won't play for another club, but it is understood that he could travel during his time off.

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.