All Blacks captain Read to move to Japan after World Cup
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks captain Kieran Read has announced he will leave New Zealand after the World Cup to play club rugby in Japan for Toyota Verblitz.
The 33-year-old backrower had already indicated he was unlikely to continue in test rugby after the World Cup, which kicks off in September in Japan, and was considering other opportunities.
Read had been linked with the Paris club Racing 92 and there were reports he'd join former All Blacks and Crusaders teammate Dan Carter at Japan's Kobelco Steelers, but he announced Wednesday he planned to join Toyota, under former Springboks coach Jake White.
He said it was the right time to confirm his plans so he could focus on the remainder of the 2019 season.
"Every young rugby player in New Zealand dreams of the opportunities I have had to represent the All Blacks and the Crusaders and I know I'll look back at the end of the year with a great deal of pride to have worn those jerseys for as long as I have," Read said in a statement. "My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture."
Read has played 118 tests for New Zealand, taking over as captain after Richie McCaw retired following the 2015 World Cup.
To some degree his captaincy has been overshadowed by his predecessor, McCaw, who captained New Zealand in 110 of his 148 internationals.
Read has an under-stated leadership style which has made him less strongly associated with the captaincy than McCaw, who led New Zealand to 2011 and 2015 World Cup titles. But he has been prepared to take strong stands and recently spoke out against World Rugby's plans for a World League which might exclude the Pacific Island nations Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew described Read as one of the most influential players in world rugby.
"We want to wish Kieran all the very best for his swansong season in New Zealand rugby," Tew said. "He's been one of the most influential players in the world in his 13 years at the top of the professional game, an outstanding and hugely-respected All Blacks captain.
"We owe 'Reado' and others like him, who have given so much to our teams, a huge debt of gratitude."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised Read's leadership on and off the field.
"His contribution off the park has been just as impressive. He's developed into a fantastic leader who has the utmost respect of all his peers," Hansen said. "What he has achieved has been remarkable and it's fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game who has enhanced the legacy of not only the All Blacks jersey but also the Crusaders jersey."