In another year, Kieran Read will most likely be sitting in the top 10 of this list. By the end of 2019, who knows, he could be in the top five.
He has plenty left to do, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done plenty already.
In July this year he entered an elite club of players who have won 100 test caps for the All Blacks. Only the best of the best can do that and reaching that landmark in itself illustrates his talent, commitment, durability and mental tenacity.
To have reached 100 test caps is proof in itself that Read has had significant influence within the All Blacks since he broke in to become a test regular in 2009.
He stands, even with time left on the clock, as the best No 8 in All Blacks history. Zinzan Brooke may have had more outrageous ball skills. Brian Lochore was a more cerebral operator and Buck Shelford may have been a more rugged warrior. But while Read doesn’t top the list in these categories, he’d be a close second in each.
He is a brilliant ball player as he’s shown with so many freakish passes and o oads over the years. It was his pass o the ground that broke open the first test against the British & Irish Lions in 2017.
His passing game and all-round creativity is high. Exceptionally high. As is his tactical acumen and game management. Much of Read’s influence comes from his anticipation and ability to be in the right place and do the right thing.
And while he hasn’t emulated Shelford by playing with a ripped testicle, he did get through 75 minutes of the 2015 World Cup final with a badly damaged ankle. And in that same first test against the Lions this year, he came into the game having not played for eight weeks and was man of the match.
“The bloke to my left here was outstanding,” Hansen said of Read after that game. “He might be a bit grumpy with me because he played 75 minutes, which wasn’t too bad after seven weeks’ holiday.
“To be the All Blacks captain you have to have a lot of character and courage and be a fierce warrior. Richie [McCaw] showed that over a number of years, previous captains have done that and now it’s Reado’s turn.
“There was no hesitation to ask him to step up and play because that’s what All Blacks captains do.”
Read’s influence is not just defined by what he brings as a No 8 with an incredible breadth of skills. His legacy is now being added to by the role he plays as captain.
He had the unenviable task of succeeding the greatest leader in All Blacks – rugby – history. It wasn’t easy to take over leadership of the team from McCaw. For 10 years McCaw had been at the helm and the team had a distinct culture, a definite way of doing things and operating under their long-serving captain.
It could have been daunting for Read assuming the reins. But as much as he respected McCaw and learned plenty from him, Read came into the job in 2016 with a clear plan to be himself and not simply try to persevere with all that had gone before.
Players all say that the culture is now more inclusive. That Read has the ability to relate to everyone in the team regardless of background or experience and a greater number of voices are making greater contributions.
“I learnt a lot from Richie” said Read. “When I first came in I looked up to him after watching him on TV then you become peers and grow together.
“It was a really good time but from now I want to be my own person. I can’t try emulate what he’s done. I’ve just got to be Kieran Read. I’ve got subtle di erences to him – I’ve certainly got to play as well as he did on the field and lead through my actions.
“I like growing people and try to get that individual touch with a lot of the lads to get as much out of them as I can. That’s how I like to lead.”
I LEARNT A LOT FROM RICHIE. WHEN I FIRST CAME IN I LOOKED UP TO HIM AFTER WATCHING HIM ON TV THEN YOU BECOME PEERS AND GROW TOGETHER.’ KIERAN READ