Rugby World Cup 2019

All Blacks 'in good hands', says Read

New Zealand's captain and No. 8 Kieran Read at training in Tokyo yesterday ahead of tomorrow's third-place play-off against Wales. The match will be the swansong for him and three other veterans.
New Zealand's captain and No. 8 Kieran Read at training in Tokyo yesterday ahead of tomorrow's third-place play-off against Wales. The match will be the swansong for him and three other veterans.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But retiring skipper admits team still haunted by s-final shock ahead of bronze play-off

TOKYO • New Zealand great Kieran Read wants to sign off with a drop goal when he leads out the All Blacks for the last time - but fears his "leg might fall off" if he attempts the technique tomorrow.

Party poopers England ruined the captain's 34th birthday last Saturday by stunning the two-time defending champions 19-7 in Yokohama, but through the bitter sting of tears, the towering number eight appears to have had an epiphany, of sorts.

Asked about how he would mark his farewell appearance in the third-place Rugby World Cup play-off with Wales, Read joked that he hoped to channel his inner Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter in Tokyo.

"It's one thing my teammates have given me an awful lot of grief about, of never getting a drop goal," he said yesterday. "I could try... nah, I'll just do my job and that's all I'll focus on."

He will wear the All Blacks armband for the 52nd and last time, overtaking former hooker Sean Fitzpatrick in second place on the all-time list behind Richie McCaw.

But he admitted to still being haunted by his side's failure to repel a rampaging England ahead of a fixture against Wales that his team could largely do without.

Reflecting on New Zealand's first Cup loss in 12 years, he said: "It's been a weird few days.

"It does require a bit of strength, knowing it's the game we didn't want to be in. We're hurting and will be hurting for a long time to come."

While he acknowledged to having mixed emotions as he prepares for his 127th and final Test appearance in the famous black shirt, he insisted that "it's time for someone else to step in".

"I'm ready to leave," he said with a smile. "It's hard but I've known for a couple of years - the mind is willing but the body is saying, 'I can't do this any more.'

"It's been a roller coaster over the last few days, but I've loved every minute. It's my last week to be with these men I call good mates. I just want to go out and enjoy the time with those blokes."

He will not be the only player saying his goodbyes, with veterans Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams also set to walk away.

The four have been named in the team that will face the Welsh, with coach Steve Hansen making eight changes from the starting side that took on England.

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    Years' winning streak against Wales that the All Blacks will want to preserve ahead of their Rugby World Cup bronze play-off tomorrow.

Hansen will also end his seven-year spell with the All Blacks after the Wales clash and having compiled a win record of more than 90 per cent over seven years, while lifting two Cups, Read paid tribute to his boss for "pushing me to better myself as a player".

"He pushed me to better myself as a player," he said. "He's a world-class operator and is what this team represents."

Read also expressed his optimism the All Blacks were "in good hands", claiming the future was still bright for the three-time world champions.

"The group of men we've got are so committed to the All Blacks," he added. "They know what it means to be an All Black."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'All Blacks 'in good hands', says Read'. Print Edition | Subscribe