Read all about it: ABs skip­per eye­ing re­turn

July re­turn the tar­get as cap­tain back run­ning but cau­tion key

The New Zealand Herald - - Super Sport - Pa­trick McKendry

It’s a case of cau­tious good news for All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read, who hopes to be back play­ing in July af­ter tick­ing off a mile­stone in his re­cov­ery from back surgery — run­ning on the train­ing pitch with his Cru­saders team­mates.

But the 32-year-old, who has played 109 tests, knows he has to pace his re­turn care­fully.

He says he is pain-free and run­ning at close to full pace and even jump­ing and lift­ing in li­ne­outs.

But af­ter the op­er­a­tion in Auck­land in De­cem­ber which freed the nerve pres­sure caused by a disc bulge — which re­sulted sig­nif­i­cant leg pain — the Cru­saders’ ever-watch­ful med­i­cal staff are happy to tell him to slow down if he gets ahead of him­self.

“There’s no time frame on it,” Read said yes­ter­day.

“Hope­fully in July some time but it could be ear­lier or later. It’s about tick­ing mile­stones off and this [run­ning on train­ing pitch] is one. It has been a long time since I’ve been on the field ac­tu­ally run­ning around prop­erly. I’ve still got a lot to do.

“It’s a six-month in­jury, re­ally, post­surgery. I’m com­ing up to five months now. It’s go­ing good — you’ve just got to be pa­tient with things like nerves and muck­ing around with your spinal cord — you can’t rush things.

“I guess if I wasn’t a rugby player I would prob­a­bly feel 100 per cent a month or so ago but if you run around and get hit and smashed by peo­ple it’s a bit dif­fer­ent.”

Read had been ruled out of next month’s test series against France some time ago, but an ap­pear­ance in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, which starts for the All Blacks with a test against Aus­tralia in Syd­ney on Au­gust 18, is now likely, as is mean­ing­ful in­put for the Cru­saders, the Su­per Rugby lead­ers. Their final round-robin match is against the Blues on July 14.

The pri­or­ity for the All Blacks coaches will be to have Read back and healthy this year in readi­ness to help their side launch their World Cup de­fence in Ja­pan next year.

He will be a key com­po­nent of their squad for the end-of-year tour be­cause the All Blacks play their final

There’s no time frame on it. Hope­fully in July some time.

Kieran Read

Bledis­loe Cup match against Aus­tralia in Yoko­hama in late Oc­to­ber and a week later play Ja­pan in Tokyo as they pre­pare for the tour­na­ment. Tough tests against Eng­land and Ire­land and one against Italy fol­low.

Read’s last match was the test against Scot­land at Mur­ray­field in Novem­ber last year, so this is the long­est he has gone in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer with­out play­ing. Cru­saders team­mate Sam White­lock or Chiefs flanker Sam Cane is likely to lead the All Blacks in his ab­sence.

“It’s a funny one,” Read said. “At this time of my ca­reer it’s maybe a bless­ing in some ways; spend a bit more time with the fam­ily but also the body is feel­ing pretty good aside from the ob­vi­ous and once I’m back on the field I’m sure it’ll keep me re­freshed this year and head­ing into next year.”

He has been do­ing pi­lates and has spent time in the pool as he en­deav­ours to strengthen his sup­port mus­cles. He has also spent a lot of time in the gym — all mostly soli­tary pur­suits, so to progress to his next stage in re­cov­ery has been ben­e­fi­cial in terms of his con­fi­dence as he works to­wards con­tact train­ing.

“When you’re slog­ging away by your­self it’s very tough, so to have the ball in your hand and have a run around with the lads is a real pos­i­tive and cer­tainly gave me a big lift.”

Coach Steve Hansen will an­nounce the All Blacks squad for next month’s three tests on Sun­day. Read said of White­lock’s All Black cap­taincy chances:

“He’s do­ing a great job here and he’s part of the lead­er­ship group.

“He’s right in the mix I’d guess.”

Photo / Getty Im­ages

In­jured All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read is eye­ing a re­turn. He has been do­ing pi­lates and has spent time in the pool as he en­deav­ours to strengthen his sup­port mus­cles. He has also spent a lot of time in the gym.

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