By: Nigel Yalden | Saturday, October 27, 2012 6:00 AM
In the reflecting on the passing of the amazing Sir Wilson Whineray, it struck me that the All Blacks have been truly blessed with the calibre of human being that has led our national rugby team, both on and off the field
Whineray is widely regarded as the greatest All Black captain of all time.
That says a heck of a lot about the man; because when you look through the history of All Blacks rugby, there have been some amazing leaders of men who performed that role exceptionally – Dave Gallagher, Cliff Porter, Sir Fred Allen, Sir Brian Lochore, Graham Mourie, Jock Hobbs, Wayne Shelford and Sean Fitzpatrick.
The All Blacks are currently being led by Richie McCaw, whose play and leadership is writing his own unique chapter in the history of our national game.
However for three tests against France in June next year, McCaw will not be there.
His decision to invoke the sabbatical clause in his contract for the first six months of 2013 means another man will be giving the chance to lead the most famous team in world rugby.
That man is Kieran Read.
Read’s leadership potential was noted early in his All Black career and he has now ready to accept the mantle of captaincy.
Read is playing at a level equivalent to and on several occasions in the last two years exceeding that of McCaw himself.
Like McCaw, Read’s work rate is unfathomable at times and the disregard he shows for his own body is scary.
Kieran Read is deceptively quick with an impressive ability to get up to top speed in next to no time and he’s invariably travelling at full noise when going into contact.
And while the improvements in the All Black lineout is very much a collective effort from coaches and players alike, Read’s intelligent calling of the lineout plays is one reason why it has gone from being a weakness to strength.
You also see him talking a lot more on the field, providing great support for his captain and vice-captain
But as we all know, being the All Black skipper is not all about what you do on the field and off the field is an area where the 27 year old Papakura born Read has improved in the most.
Often in the past, Read had a bit of “possum in the headlights” going on when dealing with the media.
But what’s being noticeable, especially since as recently as the Argentina test week in Buenos Aires – the week when McCaw announced his decision to take time off – is how much more comfortable Read is in these types of situations.
Gone are the wide eyes, replaced by a confident, relaxed look of a man who knows and understands what he needs to do.
Kieran Read has always been vocal at trainings but it has again been noticeable, especially on the Thursday training before the Springbok test in Soweto, when McCaw and Read really gave the squad a serve midway through the session that he has stepped it up a notch there too.
So rest assured rugby fans that when Richie McCaw takes that long overdue and much deserved extended break next year, the All Blacks will be led by a man who has proven himself more than capable and worthy of the honour.
** As published in the Waikato Times on Saturday 27 October 2012 **