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Read comfortable with captaincy reins

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Sportal.co.nz     19 Oct 2013     Getty Images

The Investec Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup victors outplayed their opponents twice earlier this year, with Australia captain James Horwill admitting to a lack of self belief with the introduction of a new coach, new systems and new players.

But that teething period looked to be over for the Wallabies after they comfortably accounted for Argentina 54-17 in their final Rugby Championship match in Rosario almost a fortnight ago.

The win hasn't gone unnoticed, but it's New Zealand's own game plan that Read and the rest of the All Blacks are putting their attention on ahead of what is being called 'Bledisloe 3' at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

The changes to the All Blacks' running game in 2013 – a wider, more expansive type of play – has seen them earn the plaudits of scribes worldwide and Read acknowledged he had benefited from them, too.

"I'm really happy with how it has worked out and I'm really working into the gameplan at the moment. Hopefully we can work hard again [tonight] and get some front foot ball," said Read.

"[The gameplan changes] have been great. It's showcasing the skills in this team we have. Personally it's been good for my game and it's kept the onus on me to improve as well."

A scary thought when Read was the standout player and man of the match in New Zealand's epic 38-27 win over South Africa in what was their fourth win in Johannesburg.

Read said the late change in captain is something he is now used to and that it was a matter of slotting into the role as best he could given the short preparation time.

Earlier, coach Steve Hansen issues his reassurances that New Zealand would cope without McCaw as they had done earlier in the Rugby Championship.

"We've got to that stage now where it's just business as usual," said Hansen.

"If someone gets injured then the expectation is everyone's been preparing to play anyway and people will come in and there's a lot of trust within the group with each other and that's no different this week."

McCaw pulled up on Thursday afternoon with a tight calf and while they were waiting to see if it would come right for Saturday, Hansen said the risk wouldn't be worth the reward. The same was with Jane, whose grade 1 hamstring tear will see him unavailable for a couple of weeks.

"We could have played him, but the risk and reward just wasn't worth it so we haven't and CJ's obviously done a grade one hamstring and did that right near the end of training and we thought he may be okay in the morning but he's pulled up no good."

Hansen also defended their policy of not releasing players to their provinces for the ITM Cup semi-finals, saying it had proved fruitful.