By Chris Rattue
All Blacks captain-in-waiting Kieran Read should be leading the Crusaders into battle and stamping his mark on the post-Richie McCaw era instead of missing the opening rounds.
Unless Read has issues relating to his history of concussion, there is no excuse for him missing the opening to the 2016 Super Rugby season.
It’s time for New Zealand administrators and players to give something below the All Black obsession a chance to breathe again. The Read no-show sends out a depressingly bad message. And if he does have to miss any matches, they should not be ones against New Zealand opponents, games that draw the main attention.
Yet the rugby public is so conditioned to the pre-programmed resting nonsense and Super Rugby so discredited as a genuine professional competition that Read’s voluntary absence from the first two rounds has hardly raised a ripple.
It will be well over four months between matches for Read when he becomes available for the Crusaders in their fourth round match at home to South Africa’s Kings. He will be missing from the opening games against the Chiefs and Blues, the supposedly all-important local derbies, while the Crusaders have a third round bye.
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Read has already had a decent rest. The World Cup final was in early November, whereas the season normally ends three or four weeks later than that because of the northern hemisphere tours. Other All Blacks are playing. Why is his case so different? The Blues and Chiefs players also deserve the chance to lock horns with the incumbent All Blacks No. 8. Read’s first New Zealand opponent will be the Highlanders, in mid-May.
On a similar note, the Olympic sevens bizzo has robbed the Blues of booming prospect Akira Ioane.
The storming loose forward was about the only thing worth watching in the Blues last year. He is an enormous unit who can run like the wind. Excitement levels rose every time he got his hands on the ball.
Ioane could play a huge part in sparking a rugby resurgence in Auckland, a disaster zone compared its enormous potential. Pulling Ioane out of 15s will set his long term career back. Down the track, New Zealand rugby will pay a price for denigrating the competition which provides the foundation for their precious All Blacks.