Rugby World Cup 2019: Kieran Read savours final moments as All Blacks captain

Kieran Read's glittering All Blacks career ultimately did not end with the same fairytale finish as his predecessor Richie McCaw, but the 34-year-old will still go down as one of New Zealand's greatest players.

Read had hoped to emulate McCaw by leaving New Zealand Rugby on a high, lifting the Webb Ellis trophy as his final act after in the black jersey.

Instead, the All Blacks No.8 had to trudge off the pitch at Tokyo Stadium on Friday, having clinched third place at the 2019 tournament with a 40-17 victory over Wales.

He will now join Japanese club Toyota in the new year on a one-year contract, effectively ending his international career.

Read said before the third-place playoff that he was ready to walk away, after 11 years with the side and winning 107 of his 127 test matches.

Rugby World Cup 2019: Kieran Read savours final moments as All Blacks captain

He also led the team on 52 occasions, after heing groomed to take over from McCaw.

"It has been a great day," Read said as prolonged cheering and chants of "Kieran! Kieran!" reverberated around the crowd.

"I just tried to really make sure that I stayed in the moment and enjoyed it. I will hold these memories for a long time."

A former stand-out cricketer, Read was widely considered to be the best No.8 in international rugby, winning the World Player of the Year award in 2013, when his pace allowed him to roam in the wide channels and set up his outside backs.

He was also a brutal defender, with his thundering tackle on Australia fullback Israel Folau in the opening seconds of the 2015 World Cup final setting the tone for the All Blacks in their 34-17 victory.

Read's game changed over the last two years, as the All Blacks struggled to replace pack enforcer Jerome Kaino, with the No.8 playing increasingly tighter and closer to the breakdown.

But his physical style of play eventually caught up with him, as he suffered concussion and a series of injuries.

Read admitted he found it hard to keep his emotions in check earlier in the week, knowing he would not clinch a third title.

Yet coach Steve Hansen, who was also leaving the All Blacks after 16 years in charge, paid tribute to his captain for the way he had been able to bury those feelings.

"He was hurting probably more than most," Hansen said. "But he knew that he had to put his own personal feelings aside and knew that the team had to get up.

"I'm sure there are lots of New Zealanders and All Blacks fans all over the world, who will be proud of what we did today."

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Reuters 

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