Kieran Read makes rugby return

Kieran Read puts in a tackle while playing for the Counties Manukau Selection. Photo: NZ Herald
Kieran Read puts in a tackle while playing for the Counties Manukau Selection. Photo: NZ Herald
All Blacks captain Kieran Read has made a successful return from a long-term back injury this afternoon.

Read played the first 40 minutes of a pre-season Mitre 10 Cup fixture for a Counties Manukau Selection, in a 26-26 draw against a Tasman Selection at Mountfort Park, Manurewa.

Read was heavily involved from No 8, running the ball strongly, grabbing some lineout ball and making plenty of tackles.

"My body is actually OK – it is a bit tired," Read said after the match.

"Today really was just to go out and get a bit of contact, take a few hits, make some tackles and really just enjoy the game.

"We got through all that with no adverse effects on the body.

"It is going to be a step up going back to Super Rugby. It was good to get that hitout so now it is up to the coaches to decide how they want to use me.

"Maybe in a smaller way off the bench or something next week."

It is the first appearance in Counties Manukau colours in 14 years for Read, since he ruptured his ACL playing for the union's academy side in 2004.

The long-time Crusaders and Canterbury representative grew up in the Counties Manukau region and played with the union as an age-grade player before moving south once he burst onto the professional scene.

"Once I signed with Counties it was always a goal of mine to try and get a game in – I know it isn't an official game but it is still cool to pull on the colours," the 32-year-old said.

"It was cool to play in front of Dad. I spent my life here growing up. He always took me along to Growers [Stadium] to watch on the bank so it is pretty cool to come back and I think he was pretty proud today."

Once Read got the legs churning, he admitted his biggest challenge on the park was identifying his teammates.

"There's obviously a few 'bros' and 'cuzzies' from my point of view, I didn't quite know all the names," Read laughed.

The seven-month injury layoff has almost been like a sabbatical for the 109-test All Black. While no-one likes being injured or sitting on the side lines, Read concedes there is some silver lining to the injury break.

"It does in a weird way," he said. "I miss rugby but it has been great for me personally with my family to spend a bit more time with them.

"The body actually feels pretty good – you're not getting that car crash that you get week in and week out in Super Rugby.

"Hopefully there will be bigger benefits for me for the rest of this year and hopefully heading into next year – that is what I am aiming for."

All Blacks and Crusaders forwards Jordan Taufua and Tim Perry also got through the match unscathed playing for Tasman.

A crowd of close to 1000 people turned up at the local club ground to see the All Blacks captain up close and to get an autograph.

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