- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 6 March 2019, 5:36PM
Kieran Read will walk away from the All Blacks after this year's World Cup, and take up a short stint in Japan.
The All Blacks captain made the announcement today and will front a press conference in Christchurch.
Read, 33, has played 118 tests in the black jersey and has captained the team in 49 tests.
He was part of the victorious 2011 and 2015 teams and was named World Player of the Year in 2013.
He will join Toyota Verblitz in Japan next year on a two-year contract after reported interest from French side Racing 92 and at least one unnamed English club.
Read is glad to get the Japan announcement out of the way so he can now "focus on the footy".
He's looking forward to focussing on the year ahead with the Crusaders and the All Blacks later in the season.
That would mark the end of 13th season of professional rugby in New Zealand.
"Every young rugby player in New Zealand dreams of the opportunities I have had to represent the All Blacks and the Crusaders, and I know I'll look back at the end of the year with a great deal of pride to have worn those jerseys for as long as I have," Read said.
"My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture as part of the Toyota club.
"I feel the time is right to make this announcement on my playing future, so that I can focus my efforts on the season ahead."
His reasoning for choosing Japan came down to having three kids, and it being closer to New Zealand, along with the less amount of rugby played compared to the Northern Hemisphere - Europe and the UK.
He didn't want to talk about other options that were on the table.
But he said while retirement was one of the options, he never seriously considered it.
He feels he still had "a little bit to give", but felt it was hard to keep giving it here in New Zealand.
Read thinks he's leading New Zealand rugby is a great place, with young players knocking on the door at both Super Rugby and All Blacks level.
The Herald first reported that Read would quit the All Blacks in November last year.
NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew called Read one of the most influential players in the world and thanked him for his contribution.
"We want to wish Kieran all the very best for his swansong season in New Zealand Rugby," Tew said. "He's been one of the most influential players in the world in his 13 years at the top of the professional game, an outstanding and hugely-respected All Blacks Captain, and an All Blacks centurion.
"We owe 'Reado' and others like him, who have given so much to our teams, a huge debt of gratitude. We wish him, wife Bridget and his family all the best for their adventures next year."
"On behalf of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, I'd like to acknowledge the fantastic contribution that Reado has made to our game. His performances on the park speak for themselves: he's played 118 Tests and started 111 of them, which is an outstanding achievement.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen echoed Tew's sentiments and praised Read's leadership.
"However, that is only part of the Kieran Read story," he said. "His contribution off the park has been just as impressive. He's developed into a fantastic leader, who has the utmost respect of all his peers.
"What he has achieved has been remarkable, and its fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game who has enhanced the legacy of not only the All Blacks jersey but also the Crusaders jersey. We wish him, Bridget and the kids all the very best in their next rugby chapter."
Hansen said he'll be well missed as a well-respected senior leader.
"All the boys love him," Hansen said.
Hansen paid tribute to his all-round quality play, his defensive abilities, and singled out his off-loading in the wide channels as stand-outs.
Read said he feels he's in good nick and is raring to get back on the field.
Crusaders Coach Scott Robertson paid tribute to Read's high rugby IQ.
He described his leadership and knowledge as being "second to none", having been in so many high-pressure situations over his career, making the "right decisions at the right time".
Robertson said he's seen him grow over his career "into not just a great rugby player but a great man".
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.