Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks - 1st XV: No 15 Kieran Read

When Kieran Read roams wide near the tramlines we have got used to him making breaks, slipping offloads around the corner or out the back of his hand.

There is a majestic simplicity about those skills which have his Rosehill College friends hauling out their memories.

Usually Read played on the openside for the Ist XV where his tackling ability and technique over the ball pushed him into the national secondary schools side.

While they had different body types, Read modelled his play on All Black skipper Richie McCaw.

"That was his benchmark at school," sports director James Fraser said.

"He would talk about Richie, write down his goals and work-ons and it was all around improving his technical ability. For a young man who was quite tall, his ability to get over the ball was extraordinary.

"He trained with incredible intensity, I have never seen another kid like it. It was impressive. Lots of kids want to do well but they don't have the hunger to train at the right intensity and he had that."

Read built on that through the work he did with sports psychologist Craig Lewis in a programme for some of the school's better athletes.

Read grew to his current height in the fifth form and his rugby trainers waited until the next year before they started to add some weight to his rangy frame. Resistance and strength training increased and he began to fill out on a high protein diet.

He combined his love of rugby and cricket until the end of secondary school when Read was faced with a choice between the NZ Secs rugby side or a shot at the under 19 World Cup cricket.

Rugby won out as Read could see a fulltime professional career beckoning, a choice which would reduce his love of cricket to social occasions.

"It was circumstance but I had an inkling he would go for rugby," Fraser says.

"When you talked to him about it his eyes lit up and he had that extra spark for rugby. He has that drive that comes from somewhere, there is an intensity, he wants success and then works out how to achieve it.

"The thing is he does not rely on natural skill, he is a great student of the game."

Read often took trainings with the Ist XV while his work directing the side at a regional tournament in Rotorua impressed those who watched. He was younger than other captains but he embraced the concept of leadership.

He encouraged others to follow him and showed them what he wanted. As he has matured and continued to lead by example Read has added more voice to his style.

Read made the national under 19 side which won the World Cup and was coached by Brian McLean. At that stage Counties were struggling, the big city life in Auckland did not appeal so Read hitched his talents to the Crusaders.

That change began his grounding and rise with the Crusaders then eventual 2008 selection for the All Blacks. His form that year in the Super rugby series was so strong most expected him to be chosen for the Tri-Nations but the selectors waited until the end of year tour to Europe.

He was picked as a blindside flanker for the first of his 61 caps against Scotland and brought off the bench in two more tests. Two years later Read was the side's No 8 in a potent loose trio with Richie McCaw and Jerome Kaino.

Read has won NZ player of the year twice and after a massive campaign last season was the IRB player of the year. Several concussions have slowed him but another season or two like last and Read will be rated alongside Wayne Shelford and Zinzan Brooke.

Statistics
Date of birth: 26 October 1985
Position: Number eight
Matches: 62
Tests: 61
Test debut: 8 November 2008 v Scotland, Edinburgh
Province: Canterbury
Franchise: Crusaders
Test tries: 15
Test points: 75

- NZ Herald

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