Frustrating season continues for Kieran Read
Next weekend's test in Hamilton is shaping as another critical date in Kieran Read's season of frustration.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is adamant a lack of conditioning, not concussion, is why Read was omitted from tomorrow night's test against England.
But as each week passes it's increasingly hard to suppress the nagging concerns about his immediate future.
Read, who hasn't played since captaining the Crusaders against the Force on May 30, wasn't considered for the first test at Eden Park because the concussion symptoms which have plagued the No 8 this year had returned.
But the All Blacks say that's not why he has been overlooked for the test in Dunedin tomorrow.
"He's fit enough from a concussion point of view to pick but at the end of the day we don't think we can put him out there with the amount of training he's done," Hansen said.
"So we are just going to use this week to get him right and put him in next week."
Jerome Kaino has again been named at No 8 in Read's absence.
Read, the IRB player of the year, has made only one Super Rugby appearance in the last eight weeks. After collecting his first head knock against the Hurricanes on March 28 he was stood down for a week before being named to start against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
His second concussion was diagnosed after Chiefs lock Mike Fitzgerald's high tackle forced him from the field on April 19. Read then had to stop training for around a month and didn't return until the Force game - after illness delayed his comeback by a week - which resulted in his latest symptoms returning.
"As long as he keeps his head out of places and doesn't get a concussion, yeah, that's the plan," Hansen said in reference to his plans to start Read in Hamilton.
Hansen could have listed the No 8 on the bench but his decision not to do this isn't unusual.
Coaches are often reluctant to put players in the reserves if they haven't trained much, believing they can be exposed if called into action in the opening minutes.
While recovering from prior concussions Read, 29, has not participated in trainings; such activity has resulted in a return of the headaches and "cloudiness" that accompany brain injures.
However, he has taken an active part in the All Blacks sessions this week. When the squad trained at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday he ran among the non-test members.
Former All Blacks halfback Steve Devine, who retired because of concussion problems, said Read's health would be a top priority for the New Zealand Rugby Union.
"He has got great doctors around him and a rugby union that now knows how to deal with these issues and understands these issues. I have no doubt Kieran Read is in the best possible hands."
Devine said he was unable to talk specifically about Read's history but was confident professional players in New Zealand wouldn't be risked unless they fully fit.
"From my own personal experience I could play the next week for most of my career and it wasn't an issue but it wasn't until the symptoms started to last longer that there was an issue."