All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has defended captain Kieran Read, who was criticised after their defeat to Ireland.
Read missed much of the 2018 season after undergoing back surgery in 2017, only returning to action for the Crusaders in July. However, the 32-year-old was still able to be part of the franchise’s Super Rugby title defence and led the All Blacks to yet another Rugby Championship title.
The No 8 received plenty of criticism after the All Blacks’ 16-9 loss in Dublin last Saturday, particularly as he dropped a loose ball when it looked as though he could be in for an important try.
Unsurprisingly, Hansen has jumped to the defence of his skipper ahead of their final Test of the year against Italy in Rome.
‘Some of those articles are ridiculous and written by people that have never been in our environment, we’ve never seen them at a rugby game,’ Hansen told the media in Rome. ‘ He’s going well. He’s in the best shape he’s been all year.
‘He’s had some tough moments during the course of the year, which I think have been great for him. First of all his back was career-ending possibly, so he had to deal with that. He’s had some learnings on the track as a leader and he’s come through that fine.
‘You’ve just got to be strong enough to believe in who you are, but as I say, he’s well supported so his position’s not under threat.’
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images