TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks captain Kieran Read skipped training on Tuesday ahead of their Rugby World Cup semi-final due to a sore calf muscle, but coach Steve Hansen was “100%” certain he would face England in Yokohama on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Read, who has battled back into superb form after recovering from back surgery at the end of 2017, has kept up his fitness in the gym.
“There is no issue. You didn’t see him train because he was in the gym on the bike,” Hansen told reporters on Tuesday. “He got a tight calf from the game the other day and we didn’t want to put him out on a wet track.”
Asked whether he was confident Read would be fit for the showdown with Eddie Jones’s team, Hansen was definite.
“Yeah, 100%,” he said.
Hansen, however, added that loose forward Matt Todd would not be considered for the game as he was still recovering from a sore shoulder sustained in the 46-14 victory over Ireland in the quarter final.
Todd, who dislocated the shoulder before the tournament and missed the opening game against South Africa, reeled away from a tackle on Saturday holding his left shoulder.
“He is making good progress but not fast enough so he won’t be available,” Hansen added. “He should be right if we are lucky enough to play another game next week.”
Lock Sam Whitelock, however, indicated that the team thought Read’s absence was not at all due to the injury.
“A bit of the banter around the team is that he didn’t want to get wet today,” Whitelock said. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s a tough man, he just didn’t want to get wet.”
While the All Blacks appeared confident about Read’s participation on Saturday, they have deliberately downplayed news of injuries in the past.
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw played the entire 2011 campaign with a broken foot, yet still managed to lead the side to their first World Cup triumph in 24 years.
McCaw, who retired after he led the team to back-to-back World Cup victories in 2015, barely trained at all during the 2011 tournament and only took to the field for games after taking pain killers.
“Thinking back to then Richie didn’t really train for a couple of weeks,” Whitelock added.
“We used to always have a game of touch at the captain’s run (final training session). A few of the boys couldn’t work out why that got cut.
“It wasn’t until after the tournament that a few of the boys realised Richie didn’t want to run.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by David Holmes)