Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Read looks forward to McCaw partnership

Kieran Read is ready to start alongside fellow loose forward Richie McCaw for the first time since the World Cup. Photo / Getty Images.
Kieran Read is ready to start alongside fellow loose forward Richie McCaw for the first time since the World Cup. Photo / Getty Images.

He survived a few anxious moments when being dropped from a great height in a lineout three weeks ago but now Kieran Read is ready to start alongside fellow loose forward Richie McCaw for the first time since the World Cup.

Read feared the worst when he couldn't feel his left leg after his lifters accidentally let him go in the Crusaders' round 12 defeat by the Rebels in Melbourne. He had taken the field as a second-half substitute and had been playing for only five minutes or so when he found himself flat on his back and considering the prospect of a serious injury.

"It went numb down my leg and my back," he said. "I couldn't feel my left leg, that's why I stayed down and took those minutes until it slowly came back. It was a little bit scary but the doc [All Blacks and Crusaders doctor Deb Robinson] is pretty experienced so she kept me calm, kept me breathing."

Read has a bruised pelvic bone and only started running again late last week. However, having missed the Crusaders' big victory over the Blues in Christchurch a fortnight ago, the recent bye came at the right time for him and he was able to take a full part in the All Blacks training camps in Auckland and Wellington.

Now he is ready to team up with Crusaders and All Blacks skipper McCaw against the Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday night after watching the openside flanker wear his No8 jersey to extremely good effect against the Blues.

"He plays useful games most weeks, no matter what number he has on his back. I haven't played with him yet this year so I'm looking forward to it," said Read.

McCaw started and finished the Rebels match but Read's appearance in that game was so fleeting it's not surprising he doesn't consider it worth counting.

The fall occurred when he stole a Rebels' ball but the 26-year-old said he still had plenty of faith in his lifters and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

"No way, it's one of those things, the boys are doing their best. It was probably because they got me so high and both teams were coming across the line. It can end up pretty nasty sometimes."

The Highlanders will be a good test both for Read's pelvis and the Crusaders' unbeaten record at their new Addington stadium. Todd Blackadder's men need to win their remaining four games to have any chance of overtaking the Chiefs at the top of the New Zealand conference. The Highlanders, seventh overall and only two points behind the fifth-placed Crusaders, are also in the play-off mix and will look to test the home side with their physicality at the breakdown and on defence.

The memory of the teams' round two clash in Dunedin still burns brightly for Blackadder, given it featured a narrow loss and a wonky stadium clock.

"At the start of this campaign we didn't offer any fight [against the Highlanders] and to round it all off the clock was wrong," he said.

The demolition of the Blues a fortnight ago was encouraging, but what impressed him most was the ruthless mindset his side showed.

"It wouldn't have mattered what the opposition was. The intent was to go out there and perform and really dominate. If anything, it's confirmed where we need to be. It was the first time I've seen that attitude all year. It's a watershed mindset moment and I'm looking for that to continue."

Crusaders team to play the Highlanders at Christchurch Stadium on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is:

Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Owen Franks, Tom Donnelly, Matt Todd, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Tom Marshall.

- APNZ

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