Much like the All Blacks' collective efforts over the last three weeks, Kieran Read is expected to gradually build on his return in Hamilton last night.
In just his second match for almost nine weeks following battles with concussion, Read got through 40-minutes during his side's empathic 36-13 victory over England last night which sealed a series sweep.
Before being replaced by Liam Messam at halftime his value was evident at the lineout in particular and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen predicted the world class No.8 would increase his game-time in the coming weeks with the Crusaders.
"He seems to be okay at this stage but with concussions you've got to give it time," Hansen said. "It's not for me to say how much game-time he will get. As long as he's okay they will play him. Obviously he hasn't played a lot and we played him only 40 [minutes] because that's what we felt he was ready to play. They might look at it and say he can play 60 and from there all going well he should be ready to play 80-minutes."
Hansen also suggested All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg would miss next weekend's crucial derby against the Hurricanes in Wellington while he continues to recover from knee and thigh complaints.
"It'll be up to them [Crusaders] how they reintroduce him but I wouldn't think he'll play this week. That will be up to their medical staff."
All Blacks management will revert to nervous spectators as Super Rugby resumes over the next two weeks, a period which features four physically demanding local derbies.
On the cusp of claiming the test-playing nation's world record winning streak outright, and with the first Rugby Championship test against the Wallabies in Sydney just six weeks away, they will hope the rugby gods find favour by creating no further injury headaches.
That said, Hansen said Charles Piutau, Sam Cane, Conrad Smith, Dan Carter and Dagg should recover from their respective injuries and be available for the Wallabies assignment.
- Fairfax Media
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