Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has confirmed he will return to the Mitre 10 Cup this year after re-joining Counties Manukau.
Read has signed with the province on a short-term deal after leaving New Zealand following last year’s unsuccessful World Cup to link up with Top League club Toyota Verblitz.
The COVID-19 outbreak saw the 34-year-old return to New Zealand in March following the cancellation of this year’s Top League, though, which has in turn presented an opportunity to play in the Mitre 10 Cup before going back to Japan in 2021.
“While I played a lot of my representative rugby in Christchurch, my roots will always be in Counties Manukau,” Papakura-born Read – whose professional career started with Canterbury and the Crusaders nearly a decade-and-a-half ago – said.
“I remember going along to games in Pukekohe as a kid, and while I’ve been aligned with the province in recent years, my All Blacks commitments have meant I’ve never actually had the chance to pull on the red, black and white hoops in a Mitre 10 Cup game.
“I’m really excited about the upcoming season and about the prospect of playing provincial rugby in front of my family and friends at [Pukekohe] Stadium in the community I grew up in.”
After 10 years with Canterbury, Read signed with Counties Manukau in 2017 and was registered as a Steelers players until his departure for the Top League in 2019.
However, he never played a Mitre 10 Cup game for his home province, featuring just once in a 2018 pre-season game against Tasman as he fought back from a back injury.
The 128-test veteran could feature in another pre-season game in under a fortnight’s time, though, with Counties Manukau hopeful he will play against Bay of Plenty in Whakatane on September 4.
Prior to that, Read will relocate from Christchurch to link up with the squad for a training camp in Ohope, before potentially making his official debut when his side get their season underway against Tasman in Pukekohe on September 12.
“Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve had a run so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again,” Read said.
“I’ve had some good conversations with Steelers head coach Tai Lavea and I’m really excited about the squad he’s been able to assemble.
“If I can help in any way with these up-and-coming young rugby players that would be fantastic too.”
Counties Manukau chief executive Aaron Lawton added that obtaining a player of Read’s experience and quality was significant for both his organisation and for the Mitre 10 Cup as a whole.
“One of the positives in what has been a tough year with COVID-19 has been the real resurgence of fan interest in rugby again,” Lawton said.
“It’s also meant some amazingly talented rugby players have found themselves back in New Zealand and itching to play.
“Never in a million years would we have thought at the start of the year when we were beginning to put together our squad that a player of Kieran’s calibre would be available.
“We are beyond excited about having him on deck this year and are hoping our rugby community really get behind him and the Steelers.”
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