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 will be absent for the first three rounds of this year's competition as he recovers from various minor niggles ahead of a big year, when he is expected to take over the All Blacks' captaincy from Richie McCaw.

"Reado's not available for the first three weeks but it's also give Sam a great opportunity," said Crusaders head coach Todd 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.

"Sam was out best players last year and he leads through his actions.

"This is a totally new team that loves challenges. Sam's got the first opportunity to stamp his mark on this team.

"He's not just filling in here, we've told him to grab this team by the scruff of the neck and to do your very best. He'll do that, I have no doubt."

Whitelock, already a double Rugby World Cup winner at the age of 27, has won 73 Test caps since making his international debut in 2010.