Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Blacks ready for next adventure

After attending the Chicago Bulls NBA game against the Indiana Pacers alongside fellow All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Rieko Ioane, Ardie Savea, Patrick Tuipulotu and Steven Luatua, among others, Kieran Read will tomorrow re-set the goals for his team's Northern Hemisphere tour.

His teammates should be in good spirits as they consider their last four tests of the year, starting with Ireland at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Many of the players, including Kaino, are keen Bulls fans and having seen them prevail 118-101 at the United Center to maintain their early-season success, the All Blacks should have a spring in their step as they set about improving their own winning streak.

At 18 victories and counting, a fair bit of credit for their success should rest with skipper Read, the 31-year-old who has surprised many with his leadership since taking over from Richie McCaw following the World Cup.

Under his watch, the All Blacks are 10-0, a sequence of results that has surprised even him to some extent.

"It's been a great ride," Read told the Herald before getting on the plane to the United States. "Obviously the results have been pretty awesome this year - I didn't expect that - I expected it to be tougher there.

"It's a hard gig, it takes your time, it takes your mind pretty much constantly, but I'm really enjoying it. Being able to come in here and lead the bunch of boys we've got at the moment is a great feeling."

Visiting Chicago is a treat for many of the All Blacks for its novelty value and the fact that many are huge supporters of American sports teams. Prop Owen Franks, for example, is a rabid Oakland Raiders football fan.

So, having put to rest the recent victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park to reach the world record streak for a tier one nation, Steve Hansen's team will look forward for further improvements in an environment they enjoy immensely.

"We'll probably ease into it," Read said. "It's important to acclimatise in Chicago. We've got a few things on in the week - promos - and just recovery, I guess. We'll get back into test mode and it's going to be great. It's an awesome city, a great place and team to play, too - the Irish.

"It was a special moment," Read said of claiming the world record. "It's something that right now we probably don't fully understand. It's probably something we will look back on, the legacy we will be leaving."

One of the notable factors of their run this year is the way new players such as 21-year-old midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown have flourished despite their youth and inexperience. Lienert-Brown, and others, have paid credit to the environment for their success, and much of that is due to Read's hard work in making sure everyone is valued. Winning teams are generally happy ones, but these All Blacks appear tighter than ever.

"Everyone who comes into the team, we want to make feel welcome," he said. "We want them to feel a part of this success and see them do well. We've got a relatively young leaders' group as well, which is doing a great job at keeping guys on task, so when players get their opportunities, they're taking them. Hopefully it continues that way. I feel one of my strengths as a leader is being able to get out and meet everyone in the team and get something out of everyone. It's something I enjoy as well."

- NZ Herald

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