Read ready to 'replace' McCaw
Read ready to 'replace' McCawSHARE
Kieran Read has already proved his merits as a captain. Now he wants to add the 'fun factor' as leader of the Crusaders this season.
The six-month sabbatical that All Black captain Richie McCaw is taking, has opened the door for Read to have an extended run as skipper of the seven-time champion Crusaders.
McCaw, who won't be seen on the playing field until July, hopes the break will maximise his chances of becoming the first captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in successive World Cup tournaments.
However, Read – who started his senior career as a blindside flank, but has evolved into arguably the world's best No.8 – proved he is a more than adequate alternative skipper when he stood in as captain for the Crusaders when McCaw was injured during their nomadic 2011 Super Rugby campaign.
He is the first to admit that McCaw's absence from Super Rugby and the June internationals will bring with it, its own challenges.
"Richie is a world class player and the Crusaders will miss the talent and experience that he brings to the game," Read told this website in an exclusive interview from the team's base in Christchurch.
"However, his sabbatical provides a great opportunity for some of the other players to step up and make their mark.
"It also offers others a chance to take on a leadership role within the team.
"The Crusaders have a great many talented players," Read added.
And that means there is an additional entry among his personal goals for 2013 – both in terms of Super Rugby and on the Test stage.
"This year I want to enjoy the captaincy and continue to play at a high standard for the Crusaders and the All Blacks," Read told this website.
There were also significant changes to the Crusaders coaching panel in the off-season.
While the Crusaders' former assistant coach Daryl Gibson joined the Waratahs for the 2013 Super Rugby season, the Christchurch outfit appointed two new assistant coaches.
Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger are the new assistant coaches, focussing on the backs. They join head coach Todd Blackadder and Dave Hewett as forwards coach, with a new strength and conditioning coach, Mark Drury, also having joined the panel.
However, Matson and Mauger have long-standing connections with the Crusaders.
"The coaching panel of Todd Blackadder, Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger is outstanding," said Read, who has encountered a wide variety of coaches – including current Wallaby mentor Robbie Deans, who surprised many when he made Read captain during a pre-season match in 2006.
"Together they bring a great deal of experience and knowledge to the side," Read said of the new Crusaders coaching panel.
"The addition of Tabai and Aaron brings a fresh perspective.
"They are really knowledgeable about the game and bring valuable input into how we want to play."
Read, a winner of the Kel Tremain Player of the Year award as New Zealand's best in 2010, is rated as the best No.8 in the world.
He is not only a strong ball carrier, who would run through a brick wall and loves making big hits, but has grown into a demanding leader.
By Jan de Koning