By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks captain Kieran Read has moved swiftly to quash the idea that he might be the solution to New Zealand’s blindside flanker problem as they look ahead to the Rugby World Cup.
The 33-year-old Read made his test debut in 2008 against Scotland in the number six jersey but has made only one other appearance as the starting blindside flanker in his 117 other tests since.
Read has played 109 times for the All Blacks as number eight and told reporters ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa that he would be happier staying at the back of the scrum.
“I would do whatever for this team but right now it’s at number eight,” Read said on Friday. “I’m excited to be playing there. That’s the role I want to be playing.
“That’s where I see myself and get the best out of myself.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has never really settled on a blindside flanker since double World Cup winner Jerome Kaino ended his international career in 2017.
The hard-running Liam Squire looked to have the inside track for the role, but missed most of Super Rugby through injury and made himself unavailable for the Rugby Championship.
Hansen on Thursday all but ruled out bringing back the 23-test flanker, saying it was unlikely he would be available for the Bledisloe Cup match with Australia in Auckland on Aug. 17.
Shannon Frizell has been named to start the match against the Springboks as he battles with Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii and possibly Jackson Hemopo for the role in Japan.
Fans and pundits, however, have suggested that with Ardie Savea in the form of his life, Hansen should select the 25-year-old Wellingtonian at number eight with Sam Cane at openside and Read on the blindside.
Savea, normally an openside, played number eight last week against Argentina and was considered among the strongest performers for an understrength All Blacks side in the 20-16 victory.
Hansen refused to definitively rule out the suggestion on Thursday, stating people would “have to wait and see” what the future held, something his captain echoed on Friday.
“We’ll see what happens later in the year,” Read said.
“I could switch easily. It wouldn’t be too hard. But I’m just excited to be on the track for the first time this year in the black jersey.”
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)