New Zealand's Kieran Read is fast becoming the greatest No 8 of all time
Major teams: Canterbury, Crusaders
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 2008-
New Zealand caps: 87 (80 starts)
Test points: 105 (21T)
* correct as of August 2016
Death, taxes and Kieran Read unpicking defences in the 15-metre channel – these are three inevitabilities in this world.
Athleticism and on-field intelligence brought Read an All Blacks debut at Murrayfield in 2008, two months after his 23rd birthday. Only two years previously, he had made a provincial bow for Canterbury.
Growing up on New Zealand’s North Island before pursuing rugby opportunities across the Cook Strait, Read starred for Karaka Cricket Club close to Auckland. By 16, he was an age-group international batsman.
The oval ball won out though, and he became a regular in the Crusaders Super Rugby outfit. Starting the victorious 2008 decider against the Waratahs at blindside flanker, Read won a place on the end-of-season tour and has not looked back.
That Scottish assignment came wearing six too, but by the end of 2009 he was entrenched as Graham Henry’s first-choice No 8. Accolades continued with a late try to clinch a 23-22 victory over Australia the next season, sealing the Tri-Nations title and a New Zealand Player of the Year gong.
Global glory at the 2011 World Cup foreshadowed a phenomenal 2013. In June, captaining his country in the absence of Richie McCaw, Read oversaw a 30-0 defeat of France in what was his 50th and New Zealand’s 500th Test.
The year would end with 14 consecutive wins for the All Blacks. Their talisman featured in 13, contributing six tries. He was runaway IRB Player of the Year. He was also fundamental to the All Blacks’ successive World Cup triumph in 2015.
While concussion worries have surfaced recently, lineout prowess and deft link play still set him apart. And following the retirement of Richie McCaw, Read has been announced as his successor.
As for the respect of fellow greats, Lawrence Dallaglio once heralded him “better than Buck Shelford and Zinzan Brooke”. There is no higher praise.