Lion Nathan has reportedly extended Steinlager's sponsorship of the New Zealand rugby union team until 2010 but will step down as a major sponsor in 2008.

Steinlager has agreed to step down earlier if necessary, allowing a new major sponsor to take the All Blacks on board for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The brand became a lead sponsor in 2003, meaning Steinlager was integrated onto all non-playing apparel worn by the All Blacks, and has been affiliated with the team for 20 years.

Lion Nathan New Zealand managing director Peter Kean told New Zealand Newswires that Steinlager had seen solid growth during its association with the All Blacks.

He said: "Steinlager remains an unconditional supporter of the All Blacks and the decision to step aside as major pponsor allows the NZRU to pursue a strategic direction for increased brand presence of the All Blacks in Europe and Asia."