Kieran Read not in All Blacks cotton wool club
Even at the end of an exhausting and exquisite rugby year, the competitor in Kieran Read still burns bright.
Unanimously lauded as the finest player on the planet - scooping the coveted hat-trick of player of the year awards - the 28-year-old All Black No 8 could not be accused of basking in the glow of his achievements throughout a remarkable season.
Soon after being named New Zealand rugby's player of the year - to sit alongside the IRB's and International Rugby Players' Association's supreme awards - Read was asked whether he might need to manage his workload next year to sustain his magnificent level of performance.
One reporter even suggested that Luke Whitelock might be ready to share time at Noth8 in Super Rugby, which produced a narrowing of the eyes as the trademark Read resolve bubbled to the surface.
''He's certainly going to be good enough to play Super Rugby next year,'' said Read of the youngest of the Whitelock clan and an end-of-year tourist.
''If that's how it works out then great, but when you're involved in a team you want to be playing.
''He [Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder] will weigh it up next year, but certainly if you're training, my view is you might as well be playing.''
Translation: Read is going nowhere near the cotton wool club. At least not voluntarily.
''We do this game because we want to play, but it is a long season, and coaches are aware of that,'' he added, by way of a minor concession.
Of course Blackadder will be smart about how he uses Read next year, and he is fortunate to have the depth of resource at the Crusaders to allow that. Richie McCaw, George and Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua will all receive time in the loose forward rotation.
''You're not going to play every game,'' Read said.
''I was fortunate to have a few weeks off with injury this year which gave me time out. That's where the coaches are smart, they'll look after you. Steve [Hansen] did that with us before the tour when he enabled a few of us to go straight to Paris, and that made it a tour you could put all your efforts into.''
Read said he'd already taken time to reflect on his special year, but was determined to sustain his high level of play.
''I've said over a number of years I want to be playing at a top level for a long time, especially in the All Black jersey. I'm motivated to do that next year and hopefully for a few more years after that. But it doesn't just happen, you've got to be smart, believe in yourself and back yourself to do what's needed.''
He isn't sure if the All Blacks will ever match their feats of 2013, but cautions against too much back-patting.
''The rest of the world catches up pretty quick .th.th. It's a time to rest and recover and look forward to another big year.''
To that end, he likes the wave of youth coming through the All Blacks and has been impressed with their transition to test rugby. But in terms of the 2015 World Cup, the humble father of two reckons it's all but irrelevant.
''There's a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.''
So, what's in store for the Read family summer?
''Time with the family, and I'll certainly enjoy cooking a steak or some saussies on the Barbie, and have a quiet one or two. I'll get out and challenge my brothers and my dad on the golf course as well.''
There's also a grandmother who's a bit of a card sharp. Though she'll be doing well to trump Read, the form he's in.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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