Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Captain Read ready to lead

New skipper, new players and a new style of play. It is all change for the All Blacks on Sunday as, for the first time, Kieran Read leads them into combat against Italy with wing Julian Savea the only player backing up from the side which began against Scotland.

There was natural acclaim for Read from his teammates and coaches with midfield back Ma'a Nonu weighing in with his approval.

For the last three years Read had been a world class No 8, he was a leader in the forwards and had captained teams when his good buddy Richie McCaw was absent.

"I think he will be a great captain," Nonu said.

A crowd of about 70,000 is expected to attend the test in Rome. There has been some disappointment that McCaw and Daniel Carter were not starting, but coach Steve Hansen explained his needs to rotate the 32 strong squad in the opening two internationals.
He also mentioned that Carter was in the reserves and likely to make an appearance and that had not been the intention until several players were injured.

Read, like his teammates, was anxious to get out onto the park. It had been a long wait, keeping his captaincy elevation secret and waiting to get a start.

"I can't wait to run out at the head of the pack on Saturday (Sun NZ) but it is all about getting my job done so it is pretty important to make sure I do that," he said.

'It is a great opportunity, a massive honour and one of the biggest jobs in the country I guess and following a man (McCaw) who is in my opinion, the best captain ever in the All Blacks."

"He said the easiest way to lead is if you are the best player on the pitch and I think he does that every week and that is essentially how I want to do things as well.

"I have to get my performance right, then the guys will follow and you can lead with your words after that."

Being a strong performer helped the leadership duties. He did not want to take any new tack as captain, he wanted to use his natural instincts.

"I have my own style how I like to lead. I want to make sure the team knows exactly where they are going and is on the same page and working as strongly as they can together," he added.

McCaw had provided lots of help in his career and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder had been another mentor.

Hansen understood Italians wanted to see both McCaw and Carter but the two guys who were taking their places, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden were strong players.

They were making their way in international rugby and were part of an All Black group determined to match the quality their teammates had shown in the 51-22 win against Scotland.

- NZ Herald

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