Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has opened up on the mental toll the Christchurch earthquakes took on him in 2011 and how Dan Carter brought him back from tears.

In his book Straight 8, Read detailed the events surrounding the devastation caused by the earthquakes, which resulted in 185 deaths, 200 injuries and millions of dollars of damage to the city.

After the first 6.2 magnitude quake hit in February 2011, Read said he panicked when he was unable to get in contact his wife Bridget, who was home with their daughter Elle.

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"I couldn't reach Bridget on the phone. All around us was chaos," he said.

"I drove as fast as I could to get home, but the water concealed every crack and hole that had opened in the roads, and the short journey took close to half an hour.

"I finally arrived to see Bridget standing in the driveway holding Elle, looking determined to get out of there as quickly as possible. She had already packed a bag for the baby and sorted a plan."

Cracks in a grass verge and cycle path in Christchurch after the earthquake. Photo / Photosport
Cracks in a grass verge and cycle path in Christchurch after the earthquake. Photo / Photosport

Read described his shock as they assessed the damage the earthquake had caused to their home.

"I looked out into the backyard to see geysers of mud erupt across the lawn … A lake of silt and water was spreading across the section with no sign of abating.

"The earth beneath us quite literally turned to liquid mud.

"We were transfixed by the scene and by the time the flow was over, almost a foot of fresh mud covered the entire lawn, and it seeped through the sunken corner of our living room."

Read and his family retreated to his aunt and uncle's home in Burnside, where damage had been minimal.

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The Crusaders' game against the Hurricanes was soon called off and Read said he got to work putting the pieces of his home back together.

Things settled in the months which followed before Christchurch experienced another large aftershock.

It was just four days before the Crusaders' final round-robin game against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Read said it was one of the toughest times of his life - at least until Carter came to his aid.

"I had only just got the section back in order and watched out my window as the mud and water began oozing up through the ground again, just as it had in February," he said. "I don't know if I was mentally and physically exhausted from the travel and the grind, but as I picked up the things that had fallen off walls and watched the earth swallow my lawn, I broke down in tears and started to sob.

"For the first time in my life I felt like I was having a breakdown. I sat there, crying, steeling myself to shovel mud for the next few days.

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"It was only a call from Dan Carter asking if everything was all right and if a few of his Southbridge Rugby Club boys could help me out, that snapped me back out of my funk."

Kieran Read in action against the Sharks in the 2011 Super Rugby quarterfinal. Photo / Photosport
Kieran Read in action against the Sharks in the 2011 Super Rugby quarterfinal. Photo / Photosport

The Crusaders defeated the Hurricanes 16-9 and then hosted the Sharks in the Super Rugby quarter-final in Nelson, which they won 36-8.

"Once again the city came alive for us," he said. "It would have taken a great side to beat us in that quarter-final, such was our desire to end our time in Nelson on a high note."

The Crusaders narrowly missed the out on the 2011 title, losing to the Reds in the final.