Steve Hansen pays tribute to ‘great All Black’ Kieran Read

Colin Newboult

New Zealand's Kieran Read arrives with Steve Hansen and Beauden Barrett during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson.

Former New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has paid tribute to recently retired number eight Kieran Read, describing him as “a great All Black.”

Read announced an end to his playing career on Saturday following Toyota Verblitz’s semi-final defeat to Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan’s Top League.

The 35-year-old earned 127 caps for the national team, was a key part of two World Cup victories and also captained the side from 2016 to 2019.

Comparisons with Zinzan Brooke

“The only number eight you could compare him with from the modern game would probably be Zinny (Zinzan Brooke), I think,’’ Hansen told Stuff.

“Reado was a great defender, a ball runner, a passer. The last couple of years, his (injured) back limited him with his running out wide, but prior to that when he was carrying he was just unstoppable.’’

Hansen also revealed how Read’s back issues towards the latter end of his career forced the Crusaders stalwart to change his game.

The back-row needed surgery on a bulging disc in his spine in 2017 and it meant he had to adapt, but that only added to his legacy, according to the ex-All Blacks boss.

“He wasn’t just an All Black – he was a great All Black,’’ Hansen added. “I think all the great All Blacks have a threshold for pain, they have to play sometimes when they are sore.

“I don’t think people will understand how crippling the back (injury) was, and we had to nurse that to get him through to the end of his career.

“But he moulded it (his style of play) and changed things a little bit and used himself a little bit differently, and was still able to be a massive contributor.”

Ultimately, Read will mostly be remembered for his all-court game, where he had an ability to carry and be effective in the tight but also roam in the wider channels.

That was where his skills came to fore, particularly during the 2013 season when he was named the IRB Player of the Year.

Hansen said: “He was the complete rugby player. He was just a joy to watch. When he was in full flight, wow, what a rugby player.”

After legendary New Zealander Richie McCaw retired, Read took over the captaincy in 2016.

It was always going to be a difficult task to follow the great McCaw but Hansen hailed the number eight’s leadership qualities.

“Taking over after someone like McCaw, that made it doubly hard. But he did it with ease and led the team superbly,” he said.

“He (Read) always wanted to lead his own way. Which, I think, is 100 per cent the way you can do it. He never tried to be somebody else. He always tried to be Reado.’’