Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Born leaders working in harmony

Stand-in skipper Read delighted to be alongside McCaw for France test, saying captain adds hugely to side

Kieran Read says Richie McCaw brings a whole different dimension to the team. Photo / Getty Images
Kieran Read says Richie McCaw brings a whole different dimension to the team. Photo / Getty Images

Be it in the corporate, political or sporting worlds, rarely has there been a comfortable alliance between the top two in the hierarchy.

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read are strangely different. They will play only their fifth test together this year at the Stade de France and it's obvious they are mutually relieved and excited to be reunited.

Read has been a willing stand-in captain all year. An improving one, too. But he's the first to say that he's relishing having McCaw back. He means it, too. History has shown power corrupts: that a deputy will usually covet the top job and scheme ways to get it.

Not Read. He's not plotting behind McCaw's back. Read will happily wait. He knows his time will come. He knows the All Blacks are a better team with McCaw as captain and that he will become a better captain by serving loyally and learning from the best.

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"It's great to have him back on the field," says Read. "He adds to our team. Immensely. You change a little bit [when McCaw is playing]. My role becomes one of supporting him as much as I can and aligning ourselves together so we are delivering the same messages and getting the team going together in the right direction."

It's been a funny old year in that they have overlapped so little. The All Blacks have been denied something by that: together they give the All Blacks more punch, presence, direction, voice and composure. McCaw skipped the June series against France and for all the talk that the French will be a vastly different beast in Paris, it can't be dismissed that so too will the All Blacks.

It's more than just the fact McCaw is back - it's undeniable that the combination of him and Read is worth more than the sum of their considerable component parts. And it's not just those two who are feeling good about being back in tandem: it's obvious the rest of the squad has been buoyed by having such commanding figures re-installed at No8 and No7.

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There was a crackle at training on Tuesday that wasn't apparent when the side were in Tokyo.

The All Blacks are expected to be at full strength for Sunday's clash, with Owen Franks restored to tighthead prop, Keven Mealamu a likely starter at hooker and Cory Jane a good chance to make a return.

It's what everyone would consider a first choice team and for McCaw, he hopes it is the beginning of a long-term run of games for him and Read together. His sabbatical followed by various niggly injuries have left the skipper a touch frustrated.

"It would be nice to string together a few games at the end [of the year] and feel like you are getting back playing well. It started last week and then there is another chance this week."


Winning combination
McCaw and Read games together in 2013

• New Zealand 47 Australia 29, Sydney
• New Zealand 27 Australia 16, Auckland
• New Zealand 28 Argentina 13, Hamilton
• New Zealand 38 South Africa 27, Johannesburg

- NZ Herald

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