Gregor Paul: Read holds the key to All Blacks being at their best

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The statistics to come out of the All Blacks' 12-all draw are so out of whack from those produced in any of the 14 tests last year that it's tempting to go all Benjamin Disraeli and brand them damned lies.

Usually it is a compliment to suggest that much of the running was ethereal - not in this case. The All Blacks were ghosts. They had virtually no presence for the final 50 minutes.

They had virtually no possession in that period either. The ball was only in their grubby little mitts for 11 minutes and five seconds, and the bulk of that paltry return was in the first half-hour.

Last year they held the ball for an average of 15 minutes a test.

Collectively the forwards carried the ball only 24 times in Sydney. Last year the forwards typically carried more than 70 times a game. It's hard, almost impossible, to damage a defence when, on average, a big bruiser is only tanking into the opposition every three and a half minutes.

It was hardly a case of the Wallabies having to man all the decks. Skeleton staff was all they needed on the defensive front and that's why the All Blacks have made it their priority this week to breathe life into their attacking game.

And integral to that is Kieran Read. Last year Read was the man who made it all happen for the All Blacks. He played 13 tests, carried for 515m from 91 carries - which was the fourth-highest in the squad.

On Saturday night he made four carries for just 6m. He couldn't make anything happen when he had the ball only four times. Not only that, but all of his work was done in narrow channels.

The All Blacks couldn't get width. They couldn't get momentum. They were stuck bashing around the fringes.

That can't happen again this week. The All Blacks need continuity and flow and to get that, they have to get the ball more in Read's hands.

The All Black No8 has to be operating in both the tight and the loose. He needs to be the game's influential figure for the All Blacks to be at their best.

Last week his contribution was almost exclusively defensive. He made 16 tackles and two turnovers. Last year he would regularly post similar defensive numbers but also impressive attacking statistics, which is why he was the 2013 IRB World Player of the Year.

This year hasn't really started for him yet. His battle with concussion has robbed him of the game time and continuity he needs to be at his best.

It would be handy for the All Blacks if Read can finally get himself back to the same form he showed throughout last year.

- NZ Herald

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