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All Blacks captain Kieran Read takes leadership lessons from Richie McCaw



As Captain Kieran Read approaches the twilight of his Test career in Japan, he may be tempted to reflect on the previous two World Cup rugby matches of all blacks.

Or, to be more precise, he may wonder what the team did so well to secure the Webb Ellis Cup, which was kept at New Zealand rugby headquarters after the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.

Blacks captain Kieran Read prepares to play in his third quarterfinal of the Rugby World Cup.

AP

Blacks captain Kieran Read prepares to play in his third quarterfinal of the Rugby World Cup.

Although there is no simple answer to such a query, the only obvious constant of these events was that Richie McCaw, the goliath of New Zealand rugby, was a skipper on both occasions.

With McCaw retired long ago, responsibility for retaining the trophy now falls on Read's shoulders, who will play his 125th Test in the quarterfinals at Tokyo Stadium next weekend.

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When asked what he learned from watching fellow McCaw rowers during those tournaments, No. 8 Read, who turned 34 this month, noted that the 148-Test warrior never let his concentration take hold.

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The last All Blacks pool B game against Italy in Toyota was canceled because of typhoon Hagibis.

"As a person as he was, he pretty much drove," Read said.

"He didn't really let anything come between him and what he wanted. So I learned a little bit.

"Certainly, how much mental capacity do you need in the big moments."

Now it has been proven on Read that he can be a captain who not only leads by example but also makes the right calls during games.

The pressure of participating in sudden death matches can cause anxiety if things don’t go as planned; uncontrollability like a judge making unusual calls or injuries forcing a re-change can put the captain under the plane.

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Rugby World says it is a "difficult but right decision" to cancel two Saturday Rugby Championship matches.

McCaw noted in a media interview recently that before the finale, he believed it was important to set a good example through his body language.

In other words, instead of moping around a team hotel like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he wanted to give a positive vibe while remaining in a good mood.

Read started both finals in 2011 and 2015, celebrating victories over France and Australia, in Auckland and London.

Holding on to the Webb Ellis Trophy after the finals at Yokohama next month would be the end of a dream in a long and glorious All Blacks career, but Read dare not think beyond the match next weekend.

Being surrounded by a number of old heads and men who before him captained all the blacks in his absence, such as Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane, is another big plus for the captain.

Typhoon Hagibis ensured it was no ordinary heap.

Canceled the last pool game against Italy in Toyota, it forced all Blacks to work hard on Friday before seeking refuge at their hotel while a typhoon swept across Tokyo and wreaked havoc in other parts of Japan on Saturday.

Read said he feels afflicted with the people affected by watching the chaos in the images that appeared on TV.

It was not possible to go out in the open and all Blacks were spending time playing cards, watching movies and a match between Ireland and Samoa in Fukuoka.

He was also convinced that there was no need to mentor the younger players who would soon get their first taste of the World Cup quarterfinals.

"No, not particularly," Read said.

"The great thing about our group is that we have open conversations going on across the board and the guys are starting to understand what they will need in the World Cup, in the finals.

"We will address them as a team and catch up on what we expect and what will happen this week."

The key, he added, was to make sure they were excited about what lay ahead.

"You don't want to alleviate that. You just want to contain that emotion and retain that enthusiasm they will have for the game."


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