The spotlight for me this week falls on All Blacks No8 and skipper Kieran Read, how the leadership role is taking his play to a new level and why he could be an even bigger threat in the Rugby Championship.

The captaincy isn't new to him - he had lead the All Blacks 10 times before taking over full-time from Richie McCaw this year - but being a 'caretaker' captain is different.

I fullfilled that role on five occasions - four times in tests - for Sean Fitzpatrick in 1997.

From week to week Fitzy was always expected to play and lead the team, although I had an incredible sense of pride to lead my country in a test, it never hit home during the week because I was only told on the Friday that I had the job as Fitzy wasn't playing.


Being a full-time All Black captain is a huge job and many relate it to being tougher than the prime minister's role. With the greatest respect, I think perhaps people take more notice of the All Blacks than what is happening in parliament at times.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen discussing the naming of All Blacks team to play Wales at Dunedin.

There was a degree of intrigue as to how Read would handle it, and without doubt he has been incredibly impressive on and off the field. You get the sense when you are around him that he's a born leader. He's learned from the best. He doesn't want to be a McCaw clone, he's his own man and that's very evident when you speak to him.

He's also playing his 88th test this weekend, an indication of the volume of rugby he's got through in a relatively short time.

So far he has been behind at halftime in a test and all square in the other when going to the break. But he hasn't appeared rattled or fazed.

He's assured and confident and very task oriented and they're all the attributes that make great captains.

All Blacks Beauden Barrett on his selection at starting 1st-five and halfback Aaron Smith on playing his 50th test against Wales in Dunedin.

Secondly, he's in form. He's probably been the standout player over the two tests for the All Blacks. He's hitting people hard on defence, carrying the ball exceptionally well, and calling the lineouts. He's involved in the game all the time and that's a huge responsiblity as well as leading the team.

Last weekend he set up a try for Waisake Naholo off a scrum and also ran himself off the set piece. He's big, strong and skilful and he's going to draw defenders. Why aren't the All Blacks using him more off the scrum? Part of the reason is because the new law introduced into Super Rugby this season which prevents the opposition halfback from creeping around a scrum and interfering with the No8 doesn't apply in tests until July 1.

The first we will see it is during the Rugby Championship and I expected Read to come into his own then. With more time and space off the scrum he has the potential to wreak havoc.

Read is the best No8 in the world in my view and we're only going to see more of him in the Rugby Championship and that's exciting.