Rugby: Mealamu to extend leave period

Keven Mealamu
Keven Mealamu
All Black and Blues stalwart Keven Mealamu has decided to extend his leave from rugby for several weeks and will now start his Super Rugby season in March.

The Blues and the NZRU today announced the 102-test veteran plans to take a well-deserved rest after a huge 2012 rugby season which started in February and concluded last weekend

This extended leave means Mealamu will miss the first three matches of the Blues' season and will return to the fray on March 18 after the Blues' bye week.

Mealamu, who today returned to New Zealand after the All Blacks' Northern Hemisphere tour, has chosen to exercise one of several options negotiated in his latest 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," he said.

"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."

Mealamu said he had asked Blues coach Sir John Kirwan to not appoint him as captain, given his decision to sit out the early season, and 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," Kirwan said.

"Relinquishing the captaincy followed naturally and it shows he is thinking of the team first, which is what Keven always does."