Kieran Read back for Crusaders against Force
Kieran Read today confirmed his concussion symptoms were finally just a bad memory as he prepares to lead the Crusaders against the Western Force in Christchurch on Friday night.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder sprung a surprise by once again electing to leave international props Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett on the bench for the match at AMI Stadium but it would have been the sight of No 8 Read running at full noise during training that would have pleased him most.
Read, who hasn't played since the 18-17 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on April 19 because of concussion and illness, returns ahead of Luke Whitelock. Whitelock moves to the reserves in place of older brother George.
Immediately after he received a high shot across the face by Chiefs lock Mike Fitzgerald, who was later suspended for one game, Read left Waikato Stadium to have a concussion test which he failed.
It took over a month to shake the concussion and just when he hoped to play against the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend he was struck down by a heavy head cold.
Following the head knock he was forced to avoid all exercise.
''Basically zero when I was recovering from the concussion,'' Read confirmed. ''It was not that until I felt better, and that was probably three or four weeks, that I could do some training.''
The return of Read means Ryan Crotty is relieved of the captaincy. He takes the vice-captain's role off All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
Read was plagued by the usual concussion symptoms following Fitzgerald's high tackle.
''Certainly headaches were one, feeling in a bit of a fog and cloudiness. It's really hard to explain unless you go through those symptoms and then one day you wake up and feel really good.''
If he emerges from the Force match unscathed he is certain to be named in the 31-man All Blacks squad on Sunday and start the opening test against England at Eden Park on June 7.
Despite nursing a cold last week, Read was able to start getting involved in some contact training.
Not starting against the Highlanders, he said, was the right decision.
''I think it (the cold) just compounded things. I hadn't quite got over the concussion and I picked up the sinus infection and cold and what have you; and that rocked me for about a week.
''I didn't know whether it was a head cold or the concussion to be honest. So the doctors were a bit precautionary around that.''
Last week Blackadder rotated his whole front row, meaning hooker Corey Flynn and Franks and Crockett - the latter are expected to be named in the All Blacks squad - were sent to the bench.
Tim Perry, Ben Funnell and Nepo Laulala, who performed well in last Saturday night's 32-30 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin, have been rewarded with starter's jerseys once again.
Perry and Laulala scored crucial tries in the second half and the scrummaging unit was potent while they were on the park.
Blackadder also resisted the urge to rotate his halfbacks, again sticking with the vastly-experienced Andy Ellis ahead of Willi Heinz.
The remainder of the selections were predictable as the Crusaders look to secure a win to keep them at the top of the New Zealand conference table.
CRUSADERS: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Richie McCaw, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Tim Perry. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Jimmy Tupou, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Nafi Tuitavake.