Why Kieran Read backs Scott Barrett over Ardie Savea as next All Blacks Captain

Publish Date
Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 8:58AM

By Alex Powell

Scott Barrett’s existing relationship with coach Scott Robertson could be the decisive factor in determining who will be named as the next All Blacks captain, says former skipper Kieran Read.

It follows Sam Cane’s announcement he will not lead the side this year, before walking away from the All Blacks at the end of 2024 to take up a three-year contract in Japan with Suntory Sungoliath.

That call, though, effectively leaves a two-horse race to fill the most coveted job in New Zealand rugby.

In one corner sits Barrett, who boasts a strong relationship with Robertson, after the pair’s years of dominance with the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

In the other is Ardie Savea, who is currently the World Rugby player of the year, and has been a more than able deputy when Cane has been unavailable.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, Robertson himself admitted he has already chosen who he wants to lead the All Blacks this year, starting against England in July.

However, the public will have to wait until that first 32-man squad is named to learn exactly who that will be.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave, Read outlined that despite the excellence of Savea, Barrett should be considered the front-runner for the job.

“It’s a tough one, both have great attributes,” the former captain said. “Scooter’s [Barrett] done it for a while with the Crusaders and been pretty successful. Ardie, I think, in terms of his ability to inspire and get players to follow him is pretty impressive in the All Blacks jersey.

“There’s a couple of pretty awesome options... It’s a hard call, I think potentially Scott Barrett if I’m thinking of someone, because of where he’s sat.

“He’s led a lot of teams, and the relationship with Razor probably leans it to him.

“But Ardie would be fantastic, right? He’s an amazing player and a great leader in his own way.”

Read is beyond qualified to have a say on the next All Blacks captain.

Of the 127 times he wore the black jersey, Read led the All Blacks in 52 of them. Only Richie McCaw (110 tests) has led the national side more than Read.

Read has also shared a dressing room with Barrett, after years together in Super Rugby - as well as playing under Robertson for three years before leaving New Zealand after the 2019 World Cup.

Together, Barrett and Robertson were at the helm of a Crusaders side that created a dynasty not seen before in Super Rugby.

The 30-year-old was captain of the Crusaders for three of the seven successive titles won by Robertson. That number would have been four, were it not for an injury during the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa season in 2020 that saw Codie Taylor lift the trophy in his stead.

That important captain-coach bond should be decisive in determining if Barrett is the man to lead the All Blacks towards the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

“Knowing Scooter, what he’s like, and what he’s going to bring to the team, it’s an advantage for those two guys to work together,” Read said.

“Scooter’s a world-class player, he’s going to be starting every game, that’s a prerequisite as well.

“Maybe Barrett does have the inside edge. The captain is one guy, but it’s the guys around him like Ardie and the others that will make his job easier, whoever it is.”

Furthermore, Read questioned Savea’s desire to be the All Blacks captain on a fulltime basis.

While Savea has never disappointed as captain, those performances always came in the knowledge he was only ever keeping the seat warm for Cane.

However, despite those doubts, Savea has still been captain of the All Blacks on eight occasions, including at last year’s World Cup in France.

“I know in the past, Ardie has probably been a bit shy from it, it doesn’t sit on his shoulders as well as a few others have,” Read said. “It’s an interesting call.

“Experience helps too, having those times when you have captained. He’s someone who’s obviously not been in New Zealand this year. I don’t know if that counts against him or not.

“The experience is there, definitely at the top level.”

Robertson will name his first All Blacks squad and captain after the conclusion of Super Rugby Pacific.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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