New Zealand rugby
All Blacks in safe hands with Kieran Read
Jeff Wilson
May 21, 2013
New Zealand's Kieran Read warms up for his first game as captain, New Zealand training session, Stadio Tre Fontane di Roma, Rome, Italy, November 15, 2012
Doing all the basics very well makes Kieran Read exceptional © Getty Images

New Zealand rugby fans all wondered if we would ever be able to replace Richie McCaw as All Blacks' captain but from the current inspiration we're seeing from Kieran Read I think we need not worry.

Of course, Read and McCaw play different positions, but their influence is no different. Read has had the opportunity, with both the Crusaders and the All Blacks, to learn from the very best in McCaw and he has certainly learnt those lessons.

The mark of a great leader and player, and a trait of both, is they don't have to play week-in week-out to bring their best on every single occasion.

Both play back row positions that rely on physicality, so your mental edge needs to be sharp. Their ability to bring that competitive mentality to the game shows why they're great leaders. It's easy to tell yourself to run all day but harder to put yourself into the physical contest.

Whether you draw inspiration from a strong ball carry, a constructive clean-out or a dominant tackle, those actions can swing the momentum of any game.

Kieran Read is never one to shirk his responsibilities. He's a target at line-out time, accurate at the base of the scrum, aggressive at the tackle, carries with purpose and is effective at the breakdown. These qualities separate him from the rest.

If you're looking for X-factor, you should look no further than a player who not only commands respect but who performs with composure under pressure.

So often we look for the players who make the miracle play, the line-break or attempt the spectacular. Instead, maybe we should look at the player who makes a difference for 80 minutes.

Great players never want to under-perform, they don't want to work their way back in. Read's patience over his return from his foot injury was a testament to that. Whereas most others would rush to get back inside the white lines, he waited until he was completely ready to be the best player he could be and there is a lesson for others in that. Both McCaw and Read, on a consistent basis, have come back to show that no matter what the lay-off, their next performance is almost as good as their last.

The Crusaders, of course, still need to know how to follow his lead and, once again, many will have been guilty of having their doubts about the Crusaders' credentials when history tells us this is their time.

With a team full of All Blacks, the public expectations of the Crusaders are so very high that sometimes we forget when competitions are won and lost. Super Rugby is not won in February-March but in late May and July.

All the indications are, after Read's lift for the team last week against the Blues, that the Crusaders are headed back to a place they have not seen in five years - the top of Super Rugby.

The next step on that journey is this weekend in Hamilton against the defending champions, the Chiefs.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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