Hansen hails departing captain Read as ‘one of the greats’

Read set for New Zealand swansong

Read set for New Zealand swansong

The two-time World Cup victor, who will be chasing a third straight trophy this year, said the time felt right to leave.

"My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture as part of the Toyota club", Read told a media conference in Christchurch yesterday.

"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.

'I don't get too carried away with Super Rugby until halfway through, then you start to get a clearer picture about who is doing what, he said. "It's an exciting time".

His All Blacks coach wished him well after an "outstanding" career.

However, he confirmed this morning that he will instead be moving to Japan.

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Read, who captained New Zealand against the British & Irish Lions in 2017, had won two World Cups and will turn 34 in October.

Hansen was unconcerned, however, and said a policy to rest and limit the playing minutes of All Blacks to try and keep them fresh for the World Cup was always going to have an impact.

Read took over as full-time All Blacks captain from Richie McCaw in 2016 and has led the three-time world champions to 43 wins in 49 tests. Toyota also signed former South Africa assistant coach Gert Smal, adding him to the staff of current head coach Jake White.

The Top League is not as demanding as the competitions played in Europe, and New Zealanders also have the advantage of being closer to their home country if they are stationed in Japan. We've been ranked the number one team for 112 months now, I think, but people have seen Ireland as the top dog after they beat us, and that put a massive amount of expectation on the players and coaches.

He hinted late previous year that 2019 would be his final World Cup after lengthy spells on the sidelines caused by a wrist injury and a bulging spinal disc.

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