WELLINGTON • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen yesterday confirmed the first of his major rebuilding decisions following back-to-back Rugby World Cup victories with the expected naming of Kieran Read as the next national captain. He replaces the retired Richie McCaw.
McCaw, 35, named the 2015 New Zealander of the Year earlier this week, retired last year after leading the All Blacks to successive World Cup triumphs. He was one of six stalwarts of the team - who cemented their reputation as the most dominant side in world rugby in the past decade - to retire after the tournament hosted by England.
"Reado's had experience already as captain nine times," Hansen told Radio Sport. "While it will be a new experience to be there full time, at least he's had a taste of it."
Hansen, who has said that he is likely to step down after next year's British and Irish Lions tour, has been rebuilding the side since he took over in 2012 and now has a core of players boasting more than 30 international caps.
The 30-year-old Read's anointment to the second-highest profile job in New Zealand, behind that of the rugby-mad country's prime minister, had been on the cards for at least three years.
He led the team on their end-of-year Northern Hemisphere tour in 2012 when they beat Italy 42-10. The rangy No. 8 then stepped into the role three times against France in 2013 when McCaw was on a six-month sabbatical and three times again later that year when the regular skipper was out injured.
Read also led the team once at last year's World Cup, against Tonga.
Hansen, who was named New Zealand's Coach of the Year on Thursday, added that Sam Cane, McCaw's understudy, would likely fill his place as openside flanker.
"Sam Cane's had a taste of Test footy and he's raring to go," said Hansen. "I've got confidence in the people who are going to step up."
Despite Hansen's early support, Read and Cane have young contenders pursuing them, with the Auckland Blues' Akira Ioane and Wellington Hurricanes' Ardie Savea likely to join them in the squad after their Olympic sevens commitments.
Savea, the younger brother of All Blacks winger Julian, already has a taste of life with the team, having gone on the side's end-of-year tour in 2013 as a non-playing member.