Pain almost over for Read
Kieran Read is finally on the cusp of making his long-awaited comeback.
According to Steve Hansen the sight of Read, who hasn’t played since undergoing spinal surgery in December and relinquished the All Blacks captaincy to Sam Whitelock for the French series, trying to get away with murder at trainings is a terrific sign.
‘‘We should see him on the park in a couple of weeks – maybe for Counties,’’ All Blacks coach Hansen said.
‘‘He has been a pain in the butt at training and the boys are getting sick of him. He has been in the opposition and as niggly as hell, so he is ready to go shortly.’’
No 8 Read, who has switched provincial allegiances from Canterbury to Counties, where he cut his milk teeth in the game, has been cautious about managing his workload since the repair job on his back.
The good news is the 32-year-old is running freely and relishing contact. It appears Hansen tasked Read to play the role of an aggressive Frenchman during preparations for the dead rubber in Dunedin tomorrow night and the sight of the 109-test veteran getting up his team-mates noses created some mirth.
‘‘He should be right for some games for the Crusaders after that [playing for Counties], so it is quite exciting for us,’’ Hansen added. ‘‘As I say he has been quite niggly the last couple of weeks – the boys are sick of him. We will be pleased to give him a game.’’
This means Read may be back in charge of the All Blacks for their first Bledisloe Cup match against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 18.
While watching the All Blacks bumble their way to an unconvincing 26-13 win over France last weekend, it was difficult not to believe they would have been more efficient if Read had been in charge. In addition to his leadership qualities, he adds punch to the attack and the defensive line.
For Hansen the immediate task is to ensure his revamped match-day 23 can send France packing with a 3-0 series defeat.
While star playmaker Beauden Barrett and reserve loose forward/ lock Vaea Fifita had recovered from concussion, Hansen refused to pick them.
‘‘If we had really pushed it, both of them could have ended-up playing on Saturday. But we tend to like not to play them the week after they have been concussed.’’
The decision to start Damian Mckenzie at first five-eighth ahead of specialist Richie Mo’unga – the latter has been named on the bench – was because the selectors believed he needed to get more exposure in the position.
‘‘If we had gone the other way it would have been because we wanted Damian available to play at fullback as well. For this one we have made the decision that we want him to be a guy that can play first-five for us.’’