Sam Warburton believes New Zealand captain Kieran Read deserves to be a Rugby World Cup-winning skipper and can foresee a successful All Blacks campaign.
Read will retire after the upcoming World Cup, where New Zealand are chasing a third straight title and fourth in total.
The 33-year-old featured in the 2011 and 2015 successes but only replaced Richie McCaw as the All Blacks captain in 2016, meaning he has not yet led the team at a finals.
Warburton was Wales skipper at consecutive World Cups and believes Read fits the role of a successful leader.
“You look at World Cup winners and – I won’t say names – some people you come across, it doesn’t suit them, no disrespect,” Warburton told Omnisport.
“Then there’s some people like Kieran Read who comes across the table and he just suits being a World Cup captain. He’s got that iconic, legendary status.
“If he doesn’t win a World Cup, he’ll always be a legend and an icon of the New Zealand game anyway, but he’s been such a good player and ambassador for New Zealand rugby, you think he’s the type of person who deserves the accolade to be a World Cup-winning captain.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see New Zealand lifting the World Cup with Kieran Read. It would suit him very well. He’s been a legendary player.
“He deserves to achieve all the success that he already has achieved and further success still.”
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 16, 2019
As two-time defending champions, New Zealand are the team to beat in Japan but Warburton does not believe any side with serious title ambitions should be looking to avoid the All Blacks.
“It depends what your motivation is. If your motivation is just to have a really good run in the World Cup, then you want to avoid New Zealand,” he said.
“If your motivation is that you’re going to win the World Cup, then it doesn’t matter where you’re going to meet them. You’ve got to beat them anyway.
“Some teams will be thinking, ‘If we can get to a quarters or a semis, this would be brilliant, so we want to win our group to avoid New Zealand’.
“There’s going to be some teams thinking, ‘I don’t care how we get there, we’re going to beat every team to get to the World Cup final’. It depends how the team’s thinking.
“Fans will obviously want to see you play New Zealand in a final because they’ll want to see you have a good run.
“But if you’re going to doubt yourself in a quarter, then it makes no difference if it’s the quarter or the final. You’re doubting yourself for the final, you’ve written the final off.
“For me, it doesn’t actually matter when you play these teams. I think if you want to win the World Cup, you want to win it the hard way so you get the respect of the whole world that you’ve deserved to win it.
“You don’t want an easy run to the final. So for me, personally, it wouldn’t matter. But I can understand why some teams would rather meet New Zealand later on.”
Open Side by Sam Warburton (HarperCollins) is out on 19th September.
KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta