Whitelock to lead Crusaders in Read’s absence

Kieran Read will again captain the Crusaders in 2016, and Sam Whitelock will be the vice-captain as well as the interim captain until Read returns to play.

Read is recovering from various minor knocks in order to be fresh for a big year, in which he will also take over the All Blacks' captaincy from Richie McCaw.

"It's given Sam a great opportunity," said Blackadder.

"He's probably been leading the team anyway for the last couple of years and this just makes it a little bit more official for him. He was out best player last year and leads through his actions.

"This is a totally new team and Sam's got the first opportunity to really stamp his mark on them. He's not just filling in, we've told Sam to grab this team by the scruff of the neck and to do your very best, which he'll do, I have no doubt.

"Reado isn't around for the first three weeks but I can absolutely assure you that he's fully committed to the cause and wanting this team to be very successful."

Whitelock has already won two Rugby World Cup titles with New Zealand by the age of 27 and has won 73 Test caps since his debut in 2010.