TOKYO (Reuters) - Kieran Read had a birthday to forget on Saturday as the All Blacks crashed out of the Rugby World Cup with a 19-7 loss to England, but then some reminders of home waiting for him at his hotel put everything back in perspective.
Rugby was just a game after all.
“It’s pretty empty. Yep, it’s not what we came here for,” Read told reporters on Sunday after England ended their hold on the Webb Ellis trophy.
“And it was my birthday yesterday.
“But I get back to the hotel room and there are cards from my kids waiting for me. It changes things and puts things in perspective,” he added while blinking back tears before composing himself.
“It’s a rugby game and people care. We care. So you enjoy moments and, for me, I’m a dad, and that’s first and foremost the thing I want to be remembered by.
“That’s the thing. It’s all relative. My kids aren’t going to love me less.”
Read recognised that many New Zealanders would be upset that the team had failed to win a third successive tournament, adding that while there was pressure on the side, it was something the team thrived on.
“As an All Black, I appreciate the support we get from the country,” he said. “I feel if we didn’t have it, it would feel a bit different.
“Next year I’m going to be one of those people - a fan - wanting the All Blacks to win. It’s in our nature as New Zealanders.
“We as a nation are just passionate about little things we can do, because we are a little nation who punch above our weight.
“We understand that’s part of our job as All Blacks, to achieve things. I’d hate to lose that expectation and all that comes with being an All Black.”
Read is walking away from New Zealand rugby at the conclusion of the tournament to join Japanese club Toyota and Friday’s playoff for third place could be his 127th and final test cap.
The number eight was keen, if selected by coach Steve Hansen, to ensure that he ended his All Blacks career with a victory.
“Personally, you want to go out there and play well. It’s going to be my last chance,” he said.
“We’ve got one more crack at it on Friday. We’ll make the most of that.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; editing by Tony Lawrence