New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling will retire after the upcoming tour of England.

Watling had been considering his options and has decided to call time on his career following two Tests against England - the first of which starts at Lord's on June 2 - and the ICC World Test Championship final versus India at the Ageas Bowl June 18-22

The 35-year-old has played in 73 Test since making his debut as an opening batsman in 2009 and will break Adam Parore's record number of appearances by a Black Caps keeper of 67 if he plays in all three matches in England.

Watling said: "It's the right time. It's been a huge honour to represent New Zealand and in particular wear the Test baggy.

"Test cricket really is the pinnacle of the game and I've loved every minute of being out there in the whites with the boys. Sitting in the changing rooms having a beer with the team after five days' toil is what I'll miss the most.

"Although I've had to make this announcement ahead of the tour to England, my focus is very much on the three Tests ahead and preparing to perform in them.

"This tour will be a challenge on a few levels and we know as a team we will need to be at the very top of our game if we want to succeed."

Watling holds the New Zealand Test dismissals record with 249 catches - excluding 10 as a fielder - and eight stumpings, more than any other current Test gloveman.

Tim Southee has enjoyed the most fruitful bowler-keeper partnership with Watling, who has been involved in 73 dismissals for the paceman. Fellow seamers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have seen Watling pouch catches off their bowling 55 and 53 times respectively.

He has scored eight centuries in the longest format, with a career-best 205 coming against England at Bay Oval in November 2019.

Watling has also played in 28 ODIs and five Twenty20 Internationals. 

New Zealand paceman Trent Boult could miss both Tests against England after being cleared to visit his family following the postponement of the Indian Premier League.

Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner and physio Tommy Simsek will stay in the IPL New Delhi mini-bubble before departing for England on May 11.

Boult, who had been playing for the Mumbai Indians before the IPL season was postponed due to rising coronavirus cases in India, has been allowed to return to his homeland before heading to England.

He will join up with the Test squad early next month, so will not feature in the first Test at Lord's - which starts on June 2.

Boult may be back in contention for the second Test at Edgbaston and will definitely be available for the ICC World Test Championship final against India, which gets under way at the Ageas Bowl on June 18.

Black Caps trainer Chris Donaldson, who has been working with the Kolkata Knight Riders, will also return home briefly to see his family before joining the Test squad.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said: "We're completely supportive of Chris and Trent taking the opportunity to see their families before heading to the UK.

"They've always been the consummate professionals and we're more than happy to accommodate these arrangements.

"We've worked closely with the BCCI and the IPL franchises on the various departure strategies and we're very appreciative of their support during what is, clearly, a very challenging time.

"Were also very grateful to the England and Wales Cricket Board for accommodating the early arrival of the four members of the Test squad currently in India."

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has approved a revolutionary deal which will see US investment firm Silver Lake take a 12.5 per cent stake in the game's commercial rights including the All Blacks.

The proposal was voted for unanimously by New Zealand's 26 provincial unions and the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board (NZMRB) although it still needs sign off from the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association (NZRPA).

The private equity deal would see Silver Lake inject $NZ387.5 million into NZR, coming after the governing body recorded an operating loss of $NZ18.7m at its Annual General Meeting in Wellington on Thursday.

The controversial deal has been mooted for some time and takes the game a step closer to the All Blacks becoming a non-wholly publicly-owned entity for the first time.

NZR Chair Brent Impey said: “We are thrilled that our Provincial Unions [and] the Māori Rugby Board have recognised the importance of private equity in driving commercial revenue and enabling investment to ensure rugby thrives and survives into the future.

"Today’s vote for Silver Lake represents a transformational opportunity for our game and one we must grasp.”

Ongoing discussions with the NZRPA will be critical to establishing the terms of the deal, although Impey was disappointed they had not yet given their consent.

“Through swift action, good governance and hard work of our people we are fortunate to be one of the best placed national unions in the world," he said.

"However, we are at a critical juncture and need our players’ support if we are to make the most of the opportunity in front of us.

“The game has to change, and Silver Lake’s capital injection would allow us to re-imagine rugby and invest in the areas of the community game that need it most, particularly teenage and women’s rugby, and to create better and more engaging experiences for our fans.

"We hope the NZRPA will realise the significance of the opportunity in front of us and will continue to work toward an agreement in coming weeks."

New Zealand's Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson also weighed in on the matter, calling for the NZRPA to come to the table for talks.

"New Zealand Rugby has been working hard on it, trying to establish what it believes is a more secure financial base for the sport," Robertson said.

"Some of the details that are now emerging show the provincial unions will be getting some slice of the extra money that might be coming in, but other details are still a little bit unclear.

"Obviously on the other side of the equation you've got the Rugby Players' Association who are concerned about both the salaries that the players get but also some other issues like protection of cultural icons such as the haka."

New Zealand captain Sam Cane has undergone successful surgery on a pectoral injury.

Cane suffered a tear in his right pectoral tendon during the Chiefs' Super Rugby Aotearoa victory over the Blues last month.

The back-row, who is expected to be out for between four and six months, revealed he also had damage to his shoulder repaired during the procedure.

Cane posted on Instagram: "Surgery went well. Grateful to have a very good surgeon who reattached my pectoral muscle but also tired [sic] up a few loose ends with my shoulder while he was in there

"Looking forward to starting the rehab process and coming back stronger."

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said following Cane's injury blow: "We are all disappointed for Sam, but we have full faith in the medical team around him and we wish him well for his surgery and rehabilitation.

"As All Blacks captain, he will still play a key role in our planning for the 2021 season, and we look forward to him returning to the footy field once his rehab is complete."

Martin Guptill blasted New Zealand to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory in the decisive fifth Twenty20 international against Australia to secure a 3-2 series triumph on Sunday.

The Black Caps restricted Australia to 142-8 from their 20 overs after the visitors won the toss and elected to bat in Wellington, with Ish Sodhi taking 3-24.

Guptill (71 from 46 balls) eased any anxiety about a smaller run chase on a pitch being used for the third time this series, with New Zealand claiming victory with 27 balls to spare.

New Zealand's successful chase bucked the series trend of the side batting first winning every game.

Australia captain Aaron Finch said: "We probably just weren't aggressive enough with the bat. We probably let them dictate slightly, but we didn't get enough runs and kept losing wickets at regular intervals.

"A couple of us put a fair bit of time into our innings, 20, 30, 40 balls and then to not go on with that it was probably the difference in the game. If one of us gets 60 or 70, that might be a 160-170 score and then you're a couple of good power-play overs away from really squeezing."

Sodhi was named as the player of the series, finishing with 13 wickets at an average of 12.07 across five games.

The win was set up by a disciplined bowling display led by Sodhi, while Trent Boult (2-26 with 10 dot balls) did early damage, Mitchell Santner (0-21 with 10 dots) was tight and Tim Southee (2-38 with eight dots) restricted Australia at the death.

Boult trapped Josh Philippe lbw early before Finch (36 from 32 balls) and Matthew Wade (44 from 29 balls) put together a 66-run second-wicket stand.

Finch, who came under pressure earlier in the series after a poor run of form on the back of the Big Bash League, managed one six and five fours during his knock, while Wade hit two maximums and three fours.

Sodhi got the breakthrough with Finch slicing to Santner at point, leaving Australia 74-2 after 10 overs before the innings fell away, with Glenn Maxwell falling for one, Ashton Agar for six and Mitchell Marsh for 10.

Australia lost 68-6 in the final 10, including being restricted to 36-4 from the last five overs, battling an inconsistent pitch and tight New Zealand bowling.

Devon Conway (36 from 28) and Guptill combined for a 106-run opening partnership in the chase, before Glenn Phillips (34 not out from 16) finished the job.

Guptill blasted four sixes and seven fours in his knock, going at a strike rate of 154.35.

Riley Meredith (2-39) took two wickets in two balls, with Conway caught in the deep by Agar and Kane Williamson trapped lbw for a golden duck, but it was too little, too late.

The defeat compounds a bad 24 hours for the Aussies, after India's Test win over England on Saturday confirmed Australia would miss the Test Championship final.

Black Caps captain Williamson said: "Incredibly hard-fought series and momentum shifts throughout. Then to finish with three games on a surface, try and get a read on it was a real challenge."

Record-breaker Aaron Finch is relishing having fans in attendance when Australia face New Zealand for Sunday's Twenty20 series decider.

Finch hit 79 not out off 55 balls in Friday's series-levelling 50-run triumph to become his country's leading run-scorer in the format, with 2,310 overall.

His four sixes in the final over propelled his side to 156-6 and made Finch the first Australia batsman to reach 100 maximums in T20 cricket.

Finch was the only player who really got to grips with a tough surface, but he was just glad to help make it 2-2 after the tourists had fallen 2-0 behind.

"I've always said I'd rather get a duck and win than get some runs and lose," he said after New Zealand subsided to 106 all out, seamer Kane Richardson (3-19) the pick of the Australia attack as spinners Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa took two apiece.

"But to get some runs and contribute to a win is really nice. I felt like I was hitting them terribly for a large portion of the innings, but it was one of those wickets where you never really felt totally in, particularly when spin was bowling.

"It was nice to get a few out of the middle towards the end and get us to a decent total."

On the subject of a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions allowing for the return of fans for the final match, he added: "You play professional sport because you love entertaining, you love the atmosphere when you're at the ground.

"I love going to and watching sport, so to have fans at the ground, regardless of whether they're rooting for you or against you, is just brilliant. It provides so much."

Aaron Finch became Australia's record Twenty20 run-scorer with a captain's display as the tourists set up a series decider after a dominant victory over New Zealand in the fourth of five Twenty20 showdowns.

Finch's 79 not out off 55 balls helped lay the foundations for a 50-run triumph, with Australia posting 156-6 in Wellington before bowling out the Black Caps for just 106.

It means the series is now level at 2-2, with Australia having come from two down, and will be settled in the final match on Sunday.

Tim Southee was furious after Finch was given not out on umpire's call following an lbw review in the first over, with his reaction resulting in a formal reprimand for a Level 1 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.

The fast bowler might have been even more angry had he known the damage Finch would go on to do, the skipper accounting for over half of his side's total to become his country's leading scorer in the format on 2,310 runs.

Finch smashed four sixes off the final over, that explosive spell alone giving him more runs than any of his team-mates, with Marcus Stoinis' 19 the next-best tally.

That fact underlined the tricky nature of the pitch and New Zealand could not get to grips with it as Australia's bowlers made hay.

Kane Richardson took three wickets, while Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa each contributed two, with Kyle Jamieson – who bowled that expensive over to Finch – providing the only real flourish on the Black Caps' scorecard with 30 off 18 deliveries.

With a thrilling finale in prospect, fans will be allowed to attend the decider in Wellington after a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

Fantastic performances from Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell ensured Australia kept their T20I series against New Zealand alive with a comprehensive 64-run victory.

Trailing 2-0 in the five-match series after a nail-biting defeat last time out in Dunedin, Australia produced an impressive response in the third T20I.

Maxwell smashed 70 from 31 balls with captain Aaron Finch adding 69 as Australia posted 208-4 after losing the toss.

Agar took 6-30 as New Zealand slumped to 144 all out in reply, setting up an intriguing fourth match on Friday.

Spin bowler Agar is the first Australia player to record six wickets in a T20 match and only the fourth ever in international cricket.

Australia are looking to avoid a third consecutive T20I series defeat following losses to England and India, while the hosts are seeking a third straight triumph.

The clash on Wednesday went against that formbook, as well as the trend of this series so far, with Finch's 44-ball knock setting the tone.

After Matthew Wade (5) fell early, the skipper - who had not registered a fifty in his previous 26 innings - put on stands of 83 with Josh Philippe (43) and 64 with a rampant Maxwell.

Maxwell scored 62 of his 70 runs in boundaries, with eight fours and five sixes in a devastating display of hitting.

Kane Williamson opted to bowl despite Mitchell Santner being ruled out with a head cold, meaning he was self-isolating as precaution while waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Ish Sodhi (2-32) was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, none of whom could stem the flow of runs.

Devon Conway and Martin Guptill had been the batting stars of the first two matches and it was they who briefly gave the hosts hope.

Guptill fired 43 from 27 balls with Conway adding a slightly more measured 38 from 27.

But their hopes of a successful run chase were effectively ended when Agar removed Glenn Phillips (13), Conway and Jimmy Neesham (0) in the space of five balls in the 13th over.

New Zealand – who had been in with a chance at 109-3 - collapsed from there and were all out after 17.1 overs.

In support of Agar, fast bowler Riley Meredith took 2-24, including the key wicket of home captain Williamson (9), as part of an impressive debut for Australia.

All Blacks half-back Aaron Smith has committed to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) until the 2023 World Cup in France after signing a new contract.

NZR confirmed on Tuesday that the 32-year-old, who has 97 caps for the All Blacks, had penned a new deal securing his future with Super Rugby side Highlanders and provincially with Manawatu.

Palmerston North-born Smith is New Zealand's most capped half-back and remains a key member of the All Blacks side who finished third at the 2019 World Cup.

"One thing that hasn't changed is my love for the Highlanders, the All Blacks and Manawatu," Smith said.

"The decision to stay is based on a number of things, but I'm very keen to see the Highlanders do well, we have a good environment here and some great, young players, so I think the next few years will be exciting for us and it'll be great to be part of it.

"Dunedin has been good to me. My wife Teagan and I have a home and a business here and our son Luka was born here. 

"I felt that committing to the Highlanders for another few years in some small way says thanks for all the support we have enjoyed over the years."

All Blacks coach Ian Foster added that Smith's influence on the side could not be underestimated.

"He is so instrumental in the way we play the game and is such a vital cog for us, both on and off the field, so this is fantastic news," Foster said. 

"We're delighted that Aaron, Teagan and his family have decided to commit to New Zealand and congratulate them on the decision."

It is anticipated Smith will bring up his 100th New Zealand cap this year, while he is two caps away from equalling the record for most appearances for the Highlanders.

New Zealand's Auckland-based players, including Martin Guptill, have returned negative coronavirus tests and can continue preparation for the remainder of the Twenty20I series against Australia.

The Black Caps lead 2-0 in the five-game series, with Guptill collecting player of the match honours in the second four-run victory last week.

But Auckland has entered a seven-day lockdown after a COVID-19 case was detected.

That development has prompted the fourth game, set for Auckland on March 5, to be moved to Wellington, where the upcoming third match will also be played.

But the New Zealand players based in the city will still be available to feature.

Guptill, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman had been self-isolating due to the new measures, but they have each tested negative and will join training again on Tuesday.

Martin Guptill starred as New Zealand equalled their six-hitting record before holding on to win a nail-biting second Twenty20 against Australia by four runs in Dunedin.

Guptill thundered 97 off 50 balls, including eight sixes and six fours, before being caught off Daniel Sams' bowling to miss out on a third career T20 international century as the Black Caps posted a bumper 219-7.

Captain Kane Williamson's 13th T20 half-century was subdued by comparison, hitting three sixes on his way to 53 runs from 35 balls, while James Neesham crashed six maximums to finish unbeaten on 45 from 16 balls.

The hosts' 18 sixes at University Oval tied their all-time record in a T20 international and proved a shade too much for Australia to chase down, as Mitchell Santner claimed 4-31 to rip through the middle order.

Josh Philippe (45 off 32) had steadied the ship, before Marcus Stoinis and Sams came together at 113-6 and picked up the pace in the last seven overs to give New Zealand a major scare.

Stoinis recorded his first T20 half century as Australia closed on an unlikely victory, needing 36 off the final three overs, and 15 off the last, but Neesham's full toss saw Sams caught for 41 to end a thrilling partnership of 92 runs off 37 balls.

Neesham tempted Stoinis into a big shot, which ended his innings for 78, and the tourists came up short on 215-8 as New Zealand sealed a 2-0 lead in the five-match series, going into the third T20 in Wellington on March 3.

The hosts came out swinging from the off, with Guptill posting 17 runs in the opening three overs, but the Black Caps were temporarily slowed when Kane Richardson claimed Tim Seifert (3) with his first ball.

But Guptill blazed through the rest of the power play, thumping a pair of sixes off Adam Zampa's bowling, before bringing up his half century from 27 balls and taking the score to 59-1 off seven overs.

Australia controlled the run rate over the next few overs until Williamson opened up with a maximum off Ashton Agar as New Zealand made it to 85-1 at the halfway point of the innings.

Guptill slammed back-to-back sixes off Stoinis to take his team past 100, and made it four maximums in the space of five balls as a Kane Richardson over was crunched for 21 to bring up the 100 partnership.

Williamson brought up his 50 for 32 balls and Guptill fell three runs short of 100, with Stoinis taking the catch in the deep, before Neesham teed off with three straight sixes.

The tourists gave themselves a chance with Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson conceding only 10 runs combined off the 18th and 19th, but their hopes of chasing 220 suffered a blow when Matthew Wade (24) fell to Tim Southee (1-47) to leave them at 34-1.

After Aaron Finch lost his wicket to Ish Sodhi for 12, Santner took control, removing Glenn Maxwell (3) and claiming three more wickets in a single over – including Philippe – to leave Australia needing 107 with seven overs remaining.

But the mood turned quickly as Stoinis and Sams' electric partnership created a tense finish before the pair were both caught off Neesham's bowling to leave the New Zealanders breathing a sigh of relief.

Devon Conway starred with the bat at Hagley Oval as New Zealand won the first of five Twenty20 clashes with Australia by 53 runs.

Conway was 99 not out, becoming the first New Zealand player to score five successive T20 half centuries, as the Black Caps posted 184-5.

A fine showing with the ball, led by Ish Sodhi's 4-28, limited Australia to 131 all out in reply as the hosts enjoyed a dominant victory in Christchurch, a city remembering the devastating earthquakes that struck 10 years ago.

Martin Guptill started this match needing 12 runs to surpass Brendon McCullum's record as the highest run-scorer in this fixture (228) but was dismissed for a duck, caught at backward point off the bowling of Daniel Sams.

New Zealand looked to be in serious trouble when captain Kane Williamson's departure in the fourth over left them on 19-3 and with a lot of work to do.

But Conway laid the foundations with a fine knock, which came up just shy of yielding a century despite 10 fours and three maximums.

Conway was on 88 when he got on strike with three balls left, sending the first for a six and the next one for four, but he could only manage a single off the final delivery.

Aaron Finch's side, having lost back-to-back series against England and India, toiled in response.

Finch himself fell inside the first over and that set the tone, with Australia languishing on 19-4 by the fifth over.

Sodhi was the tormentor-in-chief for the tourists' mid-to-lower order, accounting for Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Sams and Kane Richardson.

Jhye Richardson, who fetched a "life-changing" bid at the Indian Premier League auction, was the last man to fall in a substandard innings from Australia that was ended after 17.3 overs.

This was just the second home win for New Zealand over Australia in this format in six attempts, with the teams set to meet again on Thursday.

Australia will be counting on the stars of the Big Bash to step up when they attempt to stop the rot in a five-match Twenty20 International series against in-form New Zealand.

Aaron Finch's side go into the first match of the series at Hagley Oval on Monday looking to avoid a third consecutive series defeat following losses to England and India.

The Black Caps, on the other hand, have won their last two against West Indies and Pakistan as they build momentum ahead of the T20 World Cup, which starts in October.

Australia will be without the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc, with 19-year-old spinner Tanveer Sangha set to make his debut and Jhye Richardson back in the squad.

Richardson, Glenn Maxwell and New Zealand paceman Kyle Jamieson should have a spring in their step after landing lucrative Indian Premier League deals this week.

Paceman Richardson has not played a T20 for his country for two years, but gets the chance to put shoulder injury woes behind him after an impressive Big Bash campaign.

There were doubts over Martin Guptill's fitness for the opening game in Christchurch, with the promising Finn Allen on standby, but the dangerous New Zealand opener is expected to be available.

Jhye on a high after striking it rich

Richardson was the leading wicket-taker in the Big Bash with 29 for Perth Scorchers, prompting Punjab Kings to fork out 14 crore (£1.4m) for his services.

He said after going for such big money in Thursday's auction: "It felt like I wasn't watching it. After everything that's happened you are obviously really excited then you hit this massive wall, it was pretty late, I had all this emotion, all the adrenaline, a load of messages coming through on my phone and then completely crashed and felt exhausted.

"I feel like I played a game, mentally exhausted myself. Still sinking in, that's for sure. I think it's an amazing result. It's life-changing to be honest.

Maxwell went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for the same fee, while Riley Meredith will face Australia's trans-Tasman rivals on the back of also being picked up by Punjab. Jamieson will be out to show why RCB paid 14.25cr (£1.5m) to land him.

 

Guptill backed to show class is permanent

Guptill has been struggling with a hamstring injury, but the 34-year-old appears to be ready to start the series.

Although Guptill is comfortably New Zealand's leading run scorer in the shortest format, he is in a poor run of form, but head coach Gary Stead has backed the explosive right-hander to come good.

"Gups is a class player and has been a class player for a long time. Form and what people do while in form can change perceptions so quickly," said Stead.

"But we have a number of people who are capable of playing international cricket and that's exciting for us."

 

Key series facts

- This will be the sixth meeting between the Black Caps and Australia in New Zealand in T20Is and their first at Hagley Oval. New Zealand have won only once against Australia in this format on home soil.

- New Zealand have lost only one of their last five completed T20Is at home (W4). Their only previous match at Hagley Oval ended in a seven-wicket loss to England (November 2019).

- Australia have the highest catching success rate of any Test-playing nation in the shortest format since the start of last year (91.8 per cent); New Zealand have taken 75 per cent of their catching opportunities in that time.

- Sangha took 21 wickets at an average of 18.3 in the recent Big Bash, the most by a teenager in a single edition of the competition.

- Guptill has scored 217 runs in T20 matches between the trans-Tasman rivals. He is just 12 runs shy of eclipsing Brendon McCullum’s record as the highest run-scorer in this fixture (228).

Dan Carter was hailed as "one of the best to have ever played the game" who has "amazed for almost two decades" after the New Zealand legend announced his retirement.

Mercurial fly-half Carter confirmed on Saturday that his incredible career is over at the age of 38.

The All Blacks great won the Rugby World Cup twice and is the record points-scorer in Tests with 1,598, while he was named World Rugby Player of the Year a joint-record three times.

Carter claimed three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, while he also won honours with Perpignan, Racing 92 and Kobelco Steelers.

He tweeted: "I officially retire from professional rugby today. A sport I've played 32 years which has helped shape me into the person I am today.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough, particularly you, the fans. Rugby will always be a part of my life. Thank you."

The All Blacks paid tribute to Carter on social media, posting: "Thank you @dancarter_. You have amazed us for almost two decades with your deeds on the field.

"Now it's time to put your feet up and enjoy the next chapter. #Icon."

The world governing body also expressed its gratitude to the number 10.

A post from the World Rugby account said: "A two-times @rugbyworldcup winner and one of the best to have ever played the game. Thank you for everything you have given to our sport, @DanCarter."

Former South Africa wing Bryan Habana simply wrote: "Congrats on an incredible career @DanCarter !!"

A tweet from the Springboks account read: "Congratulations on a stellar career @DanCarter and good luck with the next chapter. You'll always be welcome for a braai here in South Africa!"

Former referee Nigel Owens posted: "You will be remembered as one of the greatest ever, but more importantly, not just on the field but off it as well.

"A true gentleman. It was always a pleasure and privilege. Best wishes for the future."

New Zealand great Dan Carter has announced his retirement from rugby at the age of 38.

The fly-half won two World Cups with the All Blacks and holds the record for the most Test points scored with 1,598, ahead of Jonny Wilkinson on 1,246.

The former Crusaders star, who also played for Perpignan and Racing 92 in France, has been playing for Kobelco Steelers in Japan and also turned out for the Blues in his homeland last year.

"I've thought about this on so many occasions but today is the day and I am very grateful that I can do it on my terms," Carter wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

"I'm officially retiring from professional rugby. A sport I've played for 32 years which has helped shape me into the person I am today.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough – from my team-mates, opponents, coaching and management teams, sponsors and in particular you, the fans.

"A special mention to my friends and family who have supported and guided me through my career. Mum and Dad, thank you for everything you have sacrificed for me. My wife Honor for being my rock and allowing me to fulfil my dreams while raising our beautiful family – I can't thank you enough.

"I'm excited about my next chapter in life and what that will look like. For now, I'm sad to walk away from playing but the timing is right. Rugby will always be a part of my life. Thank you."

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Carter said "I knew in my mind the time was right" as the coronavirus pandemic made him consider whether he should keep playing abroad away from his family, with his fourth child on the way.

"After experiencing rugby in Japan I thought I could squeeze a few more years out of my body," he said. "There was something really enjoyable about being part of that environment and the culture we had at the Kobe Steelers. I was playing rugby and enjoying it and wasn't sure when I would stop.

"I got forced back by COVID in March and was gutted about that. I was coming off contract and I guess the frustrations of not being able to finish the Japanese season and then going to the Blues for a little bit, I loved that. I loved being part of the team environment but going through that process it made me realise that I play to be the best player out on the field.

"That is my drive and it always has been and I just didn't have that drive back here in New Zealand. When I realised the age my kids are and the amount of work Honor [Carter's wife] was doing looking after them while I was away chasing my dream, it made me realise it was time to stop."

Carter won three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders and remains the leading scorer in the competition.

He won 112 caps for New Zealand, lifting the 2011 World Cup, although he missed much of the tournament due to a groin injury. He then led the All Blacks to defend their crown four years later with a man-of-the-match display in the final against Australia.

Former England coach Clive Woodward described Carter's performance against the British and Irish Lions in a Wellington Test in 2005 as "off the Richter scale" and "possibly the best individual performance I have ever witnessed at Test level".

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