The highly regarded All Black captain, Kieran Read, has signed with the Japanese club, Toyota Verblitz for next season. This brings an end to his professional rugby career in New Zealand, totalling 13 seasons.
Read’s announcement is not quite fresh news, since the No.8 had already suggested that he would bring an end to his international Test career after captaining New Zealand through this year’s World Cup, ironically in Japan. New Zealand is on a quest to win a third straight Rugby World Cup, a feat which has never been achieved. In 2015, they became the first team to successfully defend a World Cup title, becoming back-to-back champions after they defeated the Wallabies at Twickenham.
The 33 year-old has currently played 118 tests for the All Blacks, during which he has captained the side on 49 occasions. He was named World Player of the Year in 2013 and was part of the All Black’s most recent World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015. He will go down in All Black history as one of New Zealand’s most respected and influential players.
In Super Rugby, Read has made more than 130 appearances for the Canterbury Crusaders, the most successful rugby team in the history of the competition.
Who will be Read’s successor?
Finding a suitable candidate to fill the shoes of Read will be incredibly difficult. Throughout his career, Read has been idolised for his tenacity at the contest and sheer toughness. However, the role of All Black captain is a position that requires not only high-quality performances on the field, but a position that demands mental fortitude. All Black losses are heavily scutinised by the public, as seen in their loss to Ireland last year.
Sam Whitelock poses a logical option as Read’s successor. He captained the All Blacks in June against France and performed well with the added responsibility. However, Whitelock is yet to commit to NZ Rugby beyond 2019, meaning he could decide to take a sabbatical overseas. Brodie Retallick and Beauden Barrett have the credentials to slip into the position, particularly Retallick who has captained the Chiefs in Super Rugby. Like Whitelock, however, both Barrett and Retallick are yet to commit to Rugby NZ long-term.
While Read is entering the twilight of his career, the All Blacks will be hoping that they can send their captain off as a winner. Who his successor will be, however, remains to be seen.