By Liam Napier in Rome

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has launched a spirited defence of Kieran Read.

Read has endured strong criticism in the wake of last weekend's loss to Ireland, with some going as far to call for his demotion as captain.

While he started the test in Dublin strongly, Read made a couple of uncharacteristically high-profile errors; one a wayward pass off the back of the scrum but the most notable a fumble which cost a certain try after his charge-down.

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After revealing his team to face Italy in Rome this weekend, Hansen took the rare step of publicly defending his skipper.

Hansen pointed out Read made his return from back surgery in July and said had grown from leadership lessons absorbed in matches such as defeat to the Springboks in Wellington, where the All Blacks turned down a shot at goal in front of the sticks and failed to set up a dropped goal.

"Some of those articles are ridiculous," Hansen said. "He's going well. He's in the best shape he's been all year. He's had some tough moments during the course of the year which have been great for him.

"First of all his back was a career-ending possibility so he had to deal with that. He's had some lessons on the track as a leader and he's come through that fine. He's got all the respect in the world from the team.

"He knocked the ball on which was pretty costly. He knows that and he's bitterly disappointed about that but that's rugby. Sometimes that happens. He'd take that opportunity 99 times out of 100. Saturday was the one time.

"We all understand that if you're in the All Black environment you're going to be scrutinised and you'll have your turn in the sun but you'll also have your turn in the rain and people are going to have plenty to say.

"You've just got to be strong enough to believe in who you are. He's well supported so his position is not under threat."

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read trains ahead of the test against Italy in Rome. Photo /Getty
All Blacks skipper Kieran Read trains ahead of the test against Italy in Rome. Photo /Getty

Hansen had no issue with the intense scrutiny the All Blacks were now under following a narrow victory over England at Twickenham and defeat to Ireland, but did have a pop at some sections where he felt criticism went too far.

"It's no different to what it has been for the last 100 years so there's no point getting all howley bowley about it. The one constant thing about the All Blacks is pressure, and you wouldn't want it any other way because it's what's made us over the years the team we are.

"That external expectation is really high so internally we have to have even higher expectations of ourselves and that's how you cope with it.

"Is it frustrating when you read some of the stuff from people who should know better? Yep. They've also got a job to do - usually it's to sell a newspaper or get somebody to click on their story so once you understand that part of it, it doesn't bother you too much.

"The good thing people could do is not click on it and then they wouldn't have a job which would be great."

All Blacks team:

Starters:

1. Ofa Tuungasfasi, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Vaea Fifita, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Waisake Naholo 12. Ngani Laumape, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Jordie Barrett, 15. Damian McKenzie

Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18. Angus Ta'avao, 19. Brodie Retallick, 20. Dalton Papalii, 21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22. Richie Mo'unga, 23. Rieko Ioane