Read changes his mind on Olympics

Date published: April 15 2015

Crusaders and All Blacks number eight Kieran Read has changed his mind and declined the chance to play at next year's Rio Olympics.

Read was initially eager to represent the New Zealand Sevens team at the Olympics but after a discussion with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and thinking about a potential leadership role in what is expected to be a difficult year for the world champions in 2016, he has decided to focus on the 15-man game.

The All Blacks' captain-in-waiting's decision will also be welcomed by the Crusaders. Super Rugby players who opt to play Sevens at the Olympics could miss up to six rounds of Super Rugby matches.

"I was [keen to go Rio] but I won't be," Read told Fairfax Media.

"It would be a hell of an opportunity but I will probably focus on making the All Blacks team."

The 29-year-old is the second high-profile All Black – after playmaker Aaron Cruden – to make himself unavailable for Sevens.

Read's pace, athleticism and ball skills – especially his ability to offload in the tackle – would have been an asset for New Zealand Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens, who is expected to target All Blacks such as Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams, Victor Vito and Beauden Barrett for his Olympics squad.

With Richie McCaw expected to retire after this year's World Cup in England, Read – who is favourite to take over the captaincy of the All Blacks – must be aware of the importance of settling into the leadership role.

Hansen has already warned that 2016 could be a difficult season, with several players missing the Rugby Championship and the home Tests against Wales to prepare for the Olympics.

He is also likely to lose several experienced players who have either gone overseas or retired so Read's presence would be vital to help the All Blacks to overcome such a difficult period.

Read said after his chat with Hansen he was happy to stick with the 15-man game.

"There is also the leadership [role] within the All Blacks, as well, which is probably a bigger part of [the decision]," he added.

After being named the World Rugby player of the year in 2013, the All Blacks' 2011 World Cup triumph, and winning the Super Rugby title with the Crusaders in 2008, Read must have been enticed by the prospect of adding an Olympic medal to his list of achievements.

"Yeah, I guess outside rugby and playing for the All Blacks, the Olympics was a massive thing," he admitted.

"It would be huge to go to the Olympics one day, but it is probably not going to work-out for me.

"So we will just have to go down other routes."