Back off. That might be the message from All Blacks captain Kieran Read to his critics.

Read has told NewstalkZB it took him all of 2018 to get back in reasonable shape after major back surgery, and he sounded confident of upping his game in 2019, when he will bow out of the All Blacks at the World Cup.

Despite a year of solid contributions, Read has copped it from a number of places including one of the judges who has just put together the BBC's World XV of the year.

Former England wing Ugo Monye said: "Kieran Read's a legend of the game, but he's nowhere near playing at a level which we've got used to - he doesn't even come into the equation for me."

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Read didn't comment directly on the criticism, but he did outline what a tough year it had been.

"Getting over back surgery was probably the biggest thing for myself," he said.

"It took a lot of time and effort. It was a big year in a lot of ways but that was probably the main thing.

"It's really good. It's been 12 months since the surgery and it probably wasn't until basically the end of the year where I started feeling somewhat decent physically.

"So it bodes well to head into this offseason and pre-season feeling in really good shape.

"Where I was at this point last year, the pain I was in, it [surgery] was needed. It's been a fairly fast recovery in some respects. I've worked pretty hard at it and I'm in good shape now.

"There weren't too many nerves around the back as such it was more about the whole body and getting it going."

Kieran Read's recovery from back surgery has been nothing short of remarkable. Photo / Getty
Kieran Read's recovery from back surgery has been nothing short of remarkable. Photo / Getty

Read confirmed 2019 would be his last as an All Black, before a "short stint" playing in Japan or Europe.

He told the Herald in November he will bring down the curtain on his long and illustrious All Blacks career at the World Cup in Japan next year.

Read, who recently turned 33, and his wife Bridget have three young children and they have always wanted to have an overseas experience together.

They want to have it before their children get too far into their schooling and 2020 is seen as the perfect time, Read said at the time.

"As a family it will be a good opportunity," he told Newstalk ZB on Wednesday.

"My wife and kids have made a lot of sacrifices over the years I've been playing. It's probably the hardest thing. You appreciate that and know how much it takes out of them. Spending more time with them would be cool."

On the All Black losses (to South Africa and Ireland) this year, Read said: "I think we've learnt in the past that they can provide a lot of motivation for us."