Rugby

All Blacks giant Read fears losing leg with farewell drop goal

AFP-JIJI

New Zealand legend Kieran Read wants to sign off with a drop goal when he leads out the All Blacks for the last time — but fears his leg might fall off.

Party poopers England ruined Read’s 34th birthday last weekend by stunning the defending champions 19-7 in Yokohama, but through the bitter sting of tears the towering No. 8 appears to have had an epiphany, of sorts.

Asked about how he would mark his farewell appearance in Friday’s third-place playoff with Wales, Read joked that he could channel his inner Jonny Wilkinson — or Dan Carter — in Tokyo.

“It’s one thing my teammates have given me an awful lot of grief about, of never getting a drop goal,” he said on Wednesday.

“I could try but my leg might fall off. Nah, I’ll just do my job and that’s all I’ll focus on.”

Read will captain the All Blacks for the 52nd and last time, overtaking former hooker Sean Fitzpatrick in second place on the all-time list behind Richie McCaw.

But he admitted to still being haunted by his side’s failure to repel a rampaging England in Saturday’s blockbuster semifinal ahead of a fixture against Wales the All Blacks could largely do without.

“It’s been a weird few days,” he said after New Zealand’s first World Cup loss in 12 years.

“It does require a bit of strength, knowing it’s the game we didn’t want to be in. We’re hurting and will be hurting for a long time to come.”

Read acknowledged he would have mixed emotions this week but insisted the time had come to step down after what will be his 127th appearance in the famous black jersey.

“I’m ready to leave,” he smiled.

“I’ve had my time in the jersey and it’s time for someone else to step in. It’s hard but I’ve known for a couple of years — the mind is willing but the body is saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

“It’s been a rollercoaster over the last few days but I’ve loved every minute,” added Read.

“It’s my last week to be with these men I call good mates. I just want to go out and enjoy the time with those blokes.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will also move on after Friday’s game after compiling a win record of more than 90 percent over seven years, and Read paid tribute to his boss.

“He pushed me to better myself as a player,” he said. “He’s a world-class operator and is what this team represents.”

Read tipped New Zealand to bounce back from their experience in Japan.

“The group of men we’ve got are so committed to the All Blacks,” he said.

“They know what it means to be an All Black — I think we’re in good hands.”

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