All Blacks looking more and more to crusading Read


INTERVIEW: KIERAN READ: GERRY THORNLEYhears the inspiring All Blacks number eight credit Munster coach Rob Penney with a key role in igniting his top flight career

ASK ANYONE in New Zealand rugby about Rob Penney – and pretty much everybody knows everybody else in the Kiwi rugby family – and it is clear the new Munster coach is very well thought of.

This is especially true of his work in developing young players in roles such as academy director with the Crusaders and New Zealand under-20s head coach.

One of the finest successes of Penney’s talent-spotting and the Crusaders’ recruitment and development policy is assuredly Kieran Read.

A stand-out performer over the last couple of years for the All Blacks, back in 2004 Read was playing with the development side at Counties Manakau on the north island, then in the provincial second division, in his first year out of school.

“Essentially the request came after I was with the under-19s. “Aussie” McLean (All Blacks assistant coach) was Canterbury coach at the time and academy director Rob Penney kind of asked me to come down,” Read recalled yesterday. “They were really interested in me and showed a lot of intent in seeing me come down, whereas a few different teams up north didn’t show the same amount of enthusiasm in looking at me.”

Read was drawn to working with coaches such as Robbie Deans and a host of All Blacks in Super Rugby’s most dominant franchise, revelling in their work ethic and willingness to learn.

Read has now played 83 times for the Crusaders and such is his increased stature that, having sat at the master’s table, he captains the side when Richie McCaw is unavailable.

“It is something I get a great kick out of, to lead a team and you not only do a lot of work throughout the week but on the field it is really enjoyable too. I love great players and the Crusaders team is so amazing. There is a big workload but those are the things which come with the honour of captaincy.

“You want to be adding to the team so you have to do that stuff. You can’t let it faze you, you have to be the one who shows the strong face for the team and doing extra things which need to be done. It is a privileged position and you see that with Ricko (McCaw) and the amount of work that he does. It is great to look at your leader and see him doing the extras and making it easier for the team. He’s not too bad.”

Now having played 37 times for the All Blacks, become a World Cup winner and one of the finest number eights in the world, Read is not of a mind to leave following the earthquakes which have reduced downtown Christchurch to a veritable shell of its former self, resulting in some tough times for him and his family.

“I try and stay away from all that talk. My family is comfortable and happy down here, we love the lifestyle before, even after the earthquakes. That is something we are living through now. It suits us down here and these things give a real meaning to our lives.”

Last year, the Crusaders made it all the way to the Super 14 final before losing in Brisbane to an inspired Queensland Reds, perhaps after a season of playing on the road caught up with them.

Rugby being one of the threads that binds the community, returning to their new, purpose-built AMI stadium has been a huge boon for the team, the city and its surrounding area, as will this weekend’s Test match.

“There is a great positive feeling throughout the community down here,” he said, albeit after understandably difficult times when even rugby seemed understandably unimportant.

“At first fans weren’t turning up for a variety of reasons, they were doing it tough, but there has been a switch, I guess, over the whole country in the last wee while.

“Coming back here with the Crusaders and being able to play on our own ground and the work we do in the community has helped. The fans seem to appreciate that and come out to support us.”