All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock will take on a more senior role with the Crusaders this Super Rugby season.

Number 8 Kieran Read will be skipper of the seven-time champions in 2016, but he will not play the opening three rounds. In his absence, Whitelock will lead the side.

Read is taking time out to get over niggles and to refresh mentally before a year which will see him take over from Richie McCaw as the All Blacks skipper.

"It's a real fresher, I had a great break, I'm ready to get back into training," said Read.

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"Mentally, for me it's great to be able to help out with the team and know you've got a couple of extra games off and then you can really be focused on playing well."

- More to come.