All Blacks captain likely to miss the opening rounds of next year's Super Rugby competition after undergoing surgery.
It is not unusual for All Blacks to make late starts to Super Rugby. It is, however, jarring to hear the All Blacks captain may miss the opening rounds of next year's competition after undergoing back surgery.
Kieran Read will have surgery on Saturday for a prolapsed lumbar disc, an injury he sustained at the end of the All Blacks' season. He has been reviewed by the All Blacks and Crusaders medical teams, as well as a back specialist, who will continue to monitor his recovery. Expected recovery time for such injuries is about four months.
Read, who was a talented top order batsman at the Karaka Cricket Club, faces an extended recovery period which he plans to spend in front of the TV watching cricket.
"So lucky there's a big summer of cricket coming up as I will be spending plenty of time here over the next few weeks," Read said in a post on social media.
"Head in for surgery on a disc in my back on Saturday, which I injured at the end of the season. Hopefully I don't miss too much of the Super Rugby season. I'll get through it thanks to the ACC [Alternative Cricket Commentary]."
Read first presented issues on the All Blacks northern tour in Edinburgh last month. That week, ahead of their penultimate test of the season, the All Blacks delayed their team naming to give the 32-year-old time to prove his fitness. He did that in their final training session, playing through the pain of what, at that point, was thought to be a hip flexor problem.
In the post-match press conference at Murrayfield Read looked uncomfortable — his voice breaking at times possibly through a mix of physical exhaustion and pain.
The following week in Cardiff, Read again struggled to recover. He hobbled around Sophia Gardens, battling to walk, as the rest of the squad trained on the Tuesday. Two days later he was absent from training with the injury now identified as a disc issue that left Read confined to his hotel bed.
Sam Whitelock stepped in to assume the All Blacks captaincy for the first time in final test of the year against Wales, and brother Luke slotted in at No8.
Since then, Read's problematic disc has not settled and now requires surgery.
Not many modern rugby players have undergone back surgery and returned. Read's opposite in the Irish team, No8 Jamie Heaslip, last month underwent a second surgery for a disc problem.
The most durable player in Irish rugby, Heaslip, 33, hasn't played since the Six Nations in March. He had microdiscectomy and was hopeful of returning to the Irish team. But within a week of returning to rugby in September, he broke down and last month opted for a second surgery.
Former South African captain Adriaan Strauss returned from disc surgery to play Super Rugby but had retired from internationals when he had the operation.
Read won't be rushed back for the Crusaders. Given his importance on a national scale a full recovery will be the priority. And given he will spend some time off his feet, he needs to be given time to regain fitness and conditioning before being thrust back into contact. He won't be risked.
Read is no stranger to starting the season late — last year missing the first six games of the year after wrist surgery and then breaking his thumb not long after returning.