Kieran Read’s inspirational form in his early days as All Blacks skipper is helping dull the pain of parting with Richie McCaw.
No.8 Read has been among the best for the world champions New Zealand in each of the first two Test wins over Wales, stamping his mark on a new role with his deeds.
He topped the tackle count in Saturday’s 36-22 second Test win in Wellington, was influential at lineout time and skilled with ball in hand, including a trademark offload for Waisake Naholo’s try.
Read’s form arguably dropped a notch following a dream 2013 season which earned him world player of the year honours.
Flanker Jerome Kaino, part of the all-conquering loose forward trio with Read and McCaw at successive World Cup triumphs, believes the captaincy transition has been seamless.
“All that responsibility has brought out some great qualities,” Kaino said.
“If you look at Kieran’s form in the last couple of weeks, he steps up when we need him.
“His calming voice when the boys are under pressure, it’s gold for the lads.”
McCaw’s openside duties have been filled by the one-two punch of Sam Cane and reserve Ardie Savea.
Kaino believes both are doing a good job in the early stages of trying to put the McCaw era behind them – a golden period for New Zealand which stretched 15 seasons.
“We try not to think about the times that we did have with Richie,” Kaino said.
“I think we’re overcoming it. We’re just trying to get more comfortable with the game we’re trying to play and complement each other’s strengths.”
“There’s still areas we want to concentrate on as a trio and try to establish our identity without Richie.”