All Blacks captain Kieran Read admits he had doubts about whether he’d play again after undergoing surgery for a neck injury last year and missing most of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Read will lead the Kiwis into battle with the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium in his 110th Test but the veteran no.8 will savour this one more than most after a serious injury scare at the end of last year.
Read required corrective surgery on a neck complaint and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen revealed this week the severity of the injury had seen the 32-year entertain thoughts about whether his career may be over.
“Reado is a very proud man and he has battled his way back from an injury, which could have been career ending,” Hansen said.
“He has had that moment where “shit, this could be all over” so to be back leading the team and playing as well as he is, he comes in with some confidence and some real genuine excitement.”
Read, who returned to the field last month for the final weeks of Super Rugby with the Crusaders, said he was stoked to be back playing agian not only ahead of schedule, but at all.
“It’s awesome actually. I had a great week with the lads. I can’t wait to get on the field,” Read said.
“Like you say, to have the injury I had, there are a few doubts that do float around but I got through the process of recovery and I am in a good space right now.
“I always had confidence I would back. Early on I didn’t think it would be this quick.
“So I am really happy to be here, and to have played the back end of Super and to play a Test match right now is awesome. I am really happy.”
Read said while he’d changed his training and rehab regimen, he was “100 per cent” as far as playing a Test match goes.
Taking on an aspirational Wallabies side keen to snap a long Bledisloe Cup drought means there’ll be no easy return to Test match footy though, Read said.
“This is a big game and rightly so,” he said.
“It has been spoken of really highly in terms of the clash it is gong to be. We respect that and we respect what they’re building towards and we know it’s going to be a hell of a game. I can’t wait.
“If we respect the opposition and respect how we prepare, we should be alright come Saturday.”
Asked about the high winds are forecast for Sydney over the weekend - which could favour the Kiwis - Read said they would take the conditions in their stride.
“It has been a great week here so far, so it’s hard to imagine but when we get to the ground we will adapt to whatever happens,” Read said.
“Winds can be a factor, the stadium is pretty large and it will probably swirl a little bit, so we will get used to that. Kickers might have to adapt.”
Read dismissed the influence of a Kiwi team winning the Super Rugby crown on the outcome of the opening Bledisloe Cup game, saying it was a “clear slate”.
It is the best of the best of all the teams and for us it is going to be a hell of a game,” Read said.
Meeting former Crusaders teammate Pete Samu in action, when the new Wallaby enters from the bench, will be an interesting experience for Read.
“He is a Crusader for life and a good friend,” Read said.
“Obviously tomorrow night will be slightly different.”The Wallabies host the All Blacks in the first Bledisoe on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 7.45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO, with the Wallaroos taking on the Black Ferns from 5:15pm AEST as well. Buy tickets here.