Nearly a year after hanging up his New Zealand rugby boots after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Kieran Read is set to take the field once again.
The former All Blacks captain's been named to start at number eight for Counties Manukau in their Mitre 10 Cup match against Tasman on Saturday in Pukekohe. It will be his first professional game on Kiwi soil since the All Blacks' World Cup warm-up game against Tonga in Hamilton last September.
Hailing from Papakura, Read returns to the franchise he finished his provincial career with, having started out with Canterbury. He says to put on the Steelers uniform is like going "full circle".
"Coming back here to play in front of a few fans that can turn up in Pukekohe - I can't wait," Read said.
But given a lengthy layoff Read does have a minutes restriction. "They will get me as much as I can go and we have some good guys on the bench ready to come on," he adds.
The Steelers come off a disappointing 2019 campaign that saw them relegated from the Premiership, where they had dwelled for seven years.
That differs mightily from their opposition. Tasman claimed the top division's silverware last year in convincing fashion, topping the table before beating Wellington in the decider.
They also have a wealth of class at their disposal, including Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Mark Telea and Shannon Frizell.
"Tasman are going to be impressive so we need to come out and start well and put them under as much pressure as we can," Read says.
"It is good to get them early and a good test for us. We are looking forward to it."
Counties will have plenty of international experience to bank on when facing the defending champs. Nepo Laulala is starting at tighthead while Dalton Papalii will wear the seven jersey in his new team, having moved from Auckland.
That offers the Steelers 156 games of international experience to rely on.
Counties Manukau side to play Tasman: 1. Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 2. Zuriel Togiatama, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Matiaha Martin, 5. Lyndon Dunshea, 6. Sam Slade, 7. Dalton Papali'i, 8. Kieran Read, 9. Jonathan Taumateine, 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Kalione Hala, 12. Orbyn Leger, 13. Sione Molia, 14. Kiris Kuridrani, 15. Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Reserves: Shaun Muir, Clinton Malolua, Conan O'Donnell, Potu Leavasa, Viliame Taulani, Johnny Kawau, Pele Cowley, Luteru Laulala.