Read to miss Crusaders' opener against Chiefs
Kieran Read will miss the Crusaders' Super Rugby opener against the Chiefs on February 21.
The All Blacks No 8, named the IRB and NZRU player of the year in 2013, has been granted an extra week away from playing duties after a heavy workload in the latter half of 2013 with the All Blacks.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder expects the remainder of his top All Blacks - including Richie McCaw - will be available for the game against the defending champion Chiefs in Christchurch.
Blackadder has repeatedly stated the Crusaders need to make a faster start to their season if they are to win their first title since 2009.
However, he said he was comfortable with the decision to allow Read to take an extra week off.
"He won't be available for the opening game - he will be ready to go for the Blues game," Blackadder said. "That was always the plan.
"It's a far better plan than the original one, that he was not going to be available for the first three weeks. Everyone else is ready to go which is good."
The absence of Read, who was anointed as Crusaders captain last year after McCaw had led the side since 2005, means the latter is likely to begin the year by leading the team against the Chiefs.
The Crusaders second-round match is against the Blues in Auckland on February 28. That will be Read's first appearance on active duty because he will not have played in any pre-season games.
Although he will skip the Crusaders final pre-season game against the Hurricanes in Levin on Friday night he will still travel with the squad.
The Blues will also be without All Blacks front rowers Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu for the first-round match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.