Fit-again Read does what All Blacks cap­tains do...

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT -

ALL BLACKS coach Steve Hansen praised cap­tain Kieran Read’s out­stand­ing per­for­mance that led to his side’s 30-15 vic­tory over the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions in the first Test at Eden Park yes­ter­day.

Read had barely played this sea­son af­ter un­der­go­ing surg­eries on his wrist and a bro­ken thumb.

Play­ing his first match in al­most eight weeks, the 31-year-old No 8 was su­perb in all as­pects of the highly com­pet­i­tive game, tak­ing the ball into con­tact, mak­ing mas­sive tack­les and lead­ing the side around the field.

“The bloke to my left here was out­stand­ing,” Hansen told re­porters as he nod­ded to­wards Read at the news con­fer­ence.

“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 added he thought the Lions were in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to put away, par­tic­u­larly as they re­gained some of the mo­men­tum just be­fore half­time with Sean O’Brien’s length of the field try.

“It was a true test out there. It took us about 60 min- utes be­fore we man­aged to string to­gether some op­por­tu­ni­ties and fin­ish them off,” Read said. “In that first half it was re­ally in­tense. Test rugby takes a bit of time to wear teams down and when you get those op­por­tu­ni­ties you have to do that. We had to work hard for that, I guess mo­men­tum changed a few times in that game and we had to scram­ble re­ally well and take our op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

All Blacks vice-cap­tain Ben Smith and cen­tre Ryan Crotty are in­jury con­cerns for the rest of the se­ries against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions af­ter they came off dur­ing the 30-15 vic­tory in the first test at Eden Park on Satur­day.

Full­back Smith failed a head in­jury as­sess­ment dur­ing the first half, while Crotty limped off later in the spell with a ham­string in­jury and will def­i­nitely miss next week’s test in Welling­ton, coach Steve Hansen said.

“Ben Smith failed a con­cus­sion test and he will go through the pro­to­cols,” Hansen told re­porters. “Ryan Crotty has pulled his hammy, so we al­ready had Jack Good­hue in as a re­place­ment to help him out with his ribs.

“Jack will be stay­ing with us, and we will try to get Ryan ready maybe for the last test if we’re lucky.”

Hansen said ear­lier yes­ter­day that hooker Dane Coles had been ruled out of the se­ries due to fitness is­sues af­ter he had been un­able to train since March with knee and calf in­juries and then con­cus­sion symp­toms. – Reuters

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