Read to return early for Crusaders

Date published: February 23 2016

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All Blacks number eight Kieran Read will make an early return to action when his side face the Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

Read was set to have the first few rounds of the season off as part of his New Zealand Rugby contract, but he has opted to play in the Crusaders' season opener.

And the Crusaders are adamant the 30-year-old's earlier than expected return is not a kneejerk reaction after they suffered a 74-7 defeat to the Hurricanes in Blenheim in their final pre-season fixture last weekend.

According to Read he discussed the possibility of an early return with Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder a few weeks ago already.

"I've been training really, well, the body's feeling great and the mind is willing," Read told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

"It was just a different feeling at that point and I decided to come back in and play.

"Two months ago, I was certainly going to miss those [opening] games and have that break, but [I'm happy with] the way I've been training, I've been feeling a lot better advanced than I thought I'd be.

"I'm ready to go, and I'm looking forward to it.

"I want to get out there with the boys, I've been seeing them here at training, working really hard in the pre-season, so it's nice to get on the field with them."

After the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup triumph in England last October, Read said he had "a bit more time to get the body right over the summer.

"It's really good not to have that mental baggage of coming back in… now I'm here, training and doing everything but playing, you kind of forget how enjoyable it is to get on the training paddock," he said.

Blackadder revealed that Read "felt a couple of weeks ago that he was tracking really well".

"I think he's hungry and he's energised," added the coach.

"We'd already talked about it three weeks ago that he was going to be available for this game.

"Please, it's not a kneejerk reaction. It's just good to have him involved, I can say that.

"It's pleasing for the team, and I'm just pleased that he's hungry and wants to play. It's a really good message."

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen confirmed last week that Read will succeed Richie McCaw as the All Blacks' captain this year.

The Crusaders will, however, stick to their decision for All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock to captain the Crusaders for the first month.

Read is keen to resume his captaincy role for the Christchurch-based franchise after that though.

"Right now, I want to be captaining this team," he added.

"I'm certainly giving Sam the chance to grow himself in the next couple of weeks, but I feel the best way I can add to this team at the Crusaders right now, is to be captaining the side. 

"I can really grow the young guys and I want to give back to the players who are around."

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