Ryan Crotty will swop New Zealand for Japan following the Rugby World Cup later this year. Photo: Reuters/Peter Cziborra

WELLINGTON – All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty announced Monday he will end his international career after this year's World Cup and play club rugby in Japan.

Crotty, who will turn 31 during the tournament, said that after 11 years with the Canterbury Crusaders Super Rugby club it was time for a change.

“Christchurch will always be home, but I'm really looking forward to taking on a new challenge in the Top League as part of the Kubota Spears club,” he said.

Crotty made his All Blacks debut against Australia in 2013 and has played 44 Tests in the fabled black jersey.

“Crotts has been one of the mainstays of our midfield for many years and is a world-class footballer,” said national coach Steve Hansen, who is also heading for the exit after New Zealand's campaign for a third straight World Cup.  

“He's a very physical, well-balanced rugby player, an outstanding communicator and decision-maker, who runs great lines and has a great pass.”

Crotty's Crusaders teammate Kieran Read, the New Zealand captain, will also move to Japan after the World Cup, playing for Toyota Verblitz.

Sam Whitelock, considered by many to be Read's heir apparent as skipper, is rumoured to be eyeing a sabbatical in Japan after the World Cup, along with Brodie Retallick and Beauden Barrett. 

There are also question marks over whether code-hopping star Sonny Bill Williams will stay with the All Blacks, while prop Owen Franks is joining Northampton.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)