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Read poised to succeed McCaw

2015-09-05 11:03

Wellington - The importance of Kieran Read to the world champion All Blacks was emphasised in his third full international season when he sustained a sprained ankle in the Tri-Nations decider against Australia shortly before the 2011 World Cup.

As the headlines reminded a rugby-mad public looking forward to hosting the tournament, it could take up to three months to recover from an injury of that magnitude.

Read, however, was named in the side anyway despite not being available until the final pool game against Canada. In the knockout phase he was able to re-form the potent loose forward combination with Richie McCaw and Jerome Kaino which led to the team beating France 8-7 in the final.

Since then Read has become arguably the second person named on the team sheet behind captain McCaw when coach Steve Hansen selects his side.

He will undoubtedly become the first when McCaw retires, probably after the Rugby World Cup opening this month.

Read led the side for the first time in 2012 but was confirmed as McCaw's successor in the following year when he captained the side six further times because the openside flank was either on sabbatical or injured.

A talented sportsman at secondary school, Read was also an age group representative cricketer, and while he progressed quickly into Super Rugby his All Blacks' debut was delayed until the end of season tour to Europe in 2008.

He initially played as a blindside flanker but, with Rodney So'oialo unable to shake off lingering injuries, he took over as number eight in 2010 and not been challenged for the role since.

At 1.94 metres tall, Read is a handy lineout option and superb at putting pressure on defenders while chasing kicks.

He also plays with the physicality required of a number eight in defence and attack, although the skill that sets him apart is his speed, fitness and ability to get wide to support his backs and help create mismatches.

His ability to get his hands free in the tackle are also second to none with passes creating space for his support players and leading to numerous tries.

The biggest concern for Read during the World Cup, apart from serious injury, will be concussion, which has afflicted him in the past two years.

He missed five Super Rugby games and two tests in 2014 while he recovered from successive head knocks and suffered issues again this season although he has said the situation this year has not been so bad.

"It certainly wasn't like it was last year," he told Fairfax Media in June. "I treat each case on its individual basis.

"I'm not going to put myself at risk, if it's not right I'm not going to go and play."

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