All Blacks aim to turn on the style against Irish for perfect season

Kieran Read says they don't want to win ugly in completing an unbeaten run in a calendar year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 10:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 4:01am

If world champions New Zealand become the first team in the professional rugby union era to win all their test matches in a calendar year by beating Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, it will be a great achievement, says their outstanding No 8 Kieran Read.

But the 28-year-old - who is in the running to be International Rugby Board player of the year - said that given their professionalism, they would prefer to do so putting up a great performance, which he said they had failed to do in their matches with France and then England.

No international team in the professional era has enjoyed a perfect calendar year, with the All Blacks side led by Wayne Shelford that won all seven of their tests in 1989, the last major nation to achieve the feat when rugby union was still an amateur sport.

If we get it right it's pretty exciting to play in and certainly good to watch as well
Kieran Read

New Zealand came close to perfection again when they won 11 games and drew one under John Hart in 1997.

Read, who scored a fine try in the victory over England last Saturday, said they were not out to win ugly to achieve the record, but to do it in style. "I think it would be a massive achievement," he said. "We'd rather give a great performance at the weekend and get a win from that and actually showcase our talents and our game plan."

Read, capped more than 50 times and who has captained them on seven occasions, said he thought the present team were a more attractive outfit to watch than the one who won the 2011 World Cup.

"We're playing a better style than what we were back then," he said. "It's hard to compare - it's apples to apples really in terms of personnel.

"Certainly our culture is great at the moment and we're playing, certainly, a better style of footie. If we get it right it's pretty exciting to play in and certainly good to watch as well. It's hard to compare, but all I'd say is that it's certainly a great team to be a part of."

Read, who plays his Super Rugby for the Crusaders, said the present team had shown in the games against England and France that despite not performing at their best, they had shown good mental resolve to hold on and win. "I don't think we're a team that was playing our best footie in the last two weeks.

"Sometimes it's hard in the conditions and the teams that you play. You've got to grind out wins and certainly our mental ability in those games was pretty high when it needed to be.

"We're a team that loves to play well and win playing well, and we'll hopefully do that this weekend."

Read, who became the undisputed first choice No8 in 2009, said he expected a much more solid performance from the Irish than the one last Saturday when they were outplayed 32-15 by Australia.

"I don't think they'll be very happy with the way they turned up," he said. "They're a much better side than what they showed against Australia, across the board really. So I'd expect a totally different team when we play them on Sunday."

And if Read needed any further motivation to perform at his best one more time, his father provided it. "My dad e-mailed me and pretty much said, 'you're only as good as your last test match'," he said.

"So pretty much that's my focus to make sure that I get out there and do the job. This is the one that people will remember instead of the one last year [the defeat to England at Twickenham, which prevented them winning all their tests], which we didn't get right."