It may have been a biting cold Edinburgh afternoon as the All Blacks took their Captain’s Run on the BT Murrayfield pitch but skipper Kieran Read was feeling a warm glow as he took in surroundings that will always be special to him.
The brilliant No 8 won the first of his 108 caps at the home of Scottish rugby, playing at blindside back in 2008 as New Zealand won 32-6.
“This is a great ground to play at. I’ve got fond memories after making my debut here,” said the 32-year-old Canterbury Crusader. “It was my first time in an All Black jersey. I love this ground and the people, the atmosphere as well, getting piped in.
“It’s been a great week so far. A lot of friendly faces around but certainly it will be a different story tomorrow night.”
Asked about his memories of that evening, the 32-year-old two-time world champion said: “I just remember trying not to fall over because it was pitch black when we ran out. It went pretty quick and I was excited. I remember the Scottish No 6 [Jason White] was an awesome man and we swapped jerseys.”
Read, who has shaken off a hip injury scare to take his place at the back of the scrum this evening, said he has been impressed with the progress made by Scotland since the All Blacks’ last visit in 2014, although he didn’t feature in that 24-16 win over Vern Cotter’s side.
“Immensely. As a side I certainly respect them, the way they went through the World Cup in 2015,” said the man who succeeded Richie McCaw following that tournament.
“The last couple of years they maybe haven’t got the results potentially in terms of placings that they deserve. They’re playing an attacking brand of footy, got a win against Aussie. They’re right up there.”
One of his famed predecessors in the black No 8 jersey, Zinzan Brooke, may have written the Scots off and predicted a big win for the tourists but Read insisted he is expecting a tough encounter.
“Probably a bit of what they showed last weekend [a 44-38 win over Samoa] and a bit in the Six Nations,” he said when asked what he anticipated from the home side. “Willing to throw the ball around, an attacking team but certainly mix it up with a solid forward pack too. I’m sure they’ll throw everything at us.
“We always want to be ruthless and put teams away. Test matches aren’t supposed to be easy. The majority of teams we play generally play their best game of the season against us. If we can stick to our gameplan and perform better than the second half against France we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning.”
Read certainly does not want to go down as the first All Black skipper to lose to a Scotland team and said: “We’re certainly aware of it [the unbeaten record]. You want to preserve it as much as we can. We turn up and show respect to the Scottish team they deserve. We come as an All Black team and it doesn’t matter who we play we want to go out and win. A record’s a record.”
Meanwhile, flanker Sam Cane, pictured inset, is drawing on memories from three years ago and predicting a tight contest. “We only have to think back to last time we played here,” he said.
“I started the Test, it was my first one in a while and it was a really tough Test match. We really had to grind it out and we only just got across the line in the end so it’s not that there’s a big gap between the sides.
“We want to win and have pride in our performance and play well.”