Lomu gives NZ extra motivation
INTERVIEW: The much-loved New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu who died a year ago on Friday will add extra motivation to the All Blacks when they face Ireland on Saturday, captain Kieran Read says.
Read is bidding to avoid being the first All Black captain since Richie McCaw in 2009 against South Africa to lose successive Tests to the same opposition.
He said Lomu had been the reason he took up the game and which has seen him capped 95 times and win two World Cups.
Lomu, who scored 37 tries in 63 Tests, but never lifted the World Cup, died aged just 40 after years of battling kidney disease only a few weeks after attending the World Cup Final and seeing the All Blacks beat historic rivals Australia.
"He was a massive inspiration to me and the reason I took up footie," said Read.
"I grew up in the same area where he played initially and I would go and watch him every weekend when he was at Counties.
"I know he's more of a legend for what he did on the pitch, but for me it is his smile and what he did off it that stays with me.
"I really feel for his family today.
"With regards to the match on Saturday, his memory will serve as extra motivation as indeed will the earthquake last weekend also be a factor and has been in the players' thoughts."
Read, who was World Player of the Year in 2013, admitted the Irish game would be the toughest Test of the year for them.
Prior to the upset in Chicago a fortnight ago - Ireland's first win over them in 29 Test meetings stretching back over 111 years - the All Blacks had set a world record of 18 successive Test victories.
"It is probably the toughest Test of the year, the loss has magnified the importance of the game," said the 31-year-old.
"The defeat puts the importance of the Test into perspective.
"For me personally it is also probably the toughest Test as it is the first time for me. It gives you a different mindset," added Read, who replaced McCaw as skipper after he retired following the World Cup victory.
Read said he was confident his team would rebound and they didn't feel vulnerable based on the one defeat.
"Streaks are always going to be broken," he said.
"It can be down to either not being mentally right that day or physically not up to it.
"But this is a young side and they have prepared well and I am pleased in the manner in which they have stepped up to the plate in training.
"For them, it could be the defining moment and it is how we respond on the pitch that will be crucial."