All Blacks captain Kieran Read has shrugged off any criticism of his form over the past 12 months, returning to his best right before this year's Rugby World Cup, teammate Matt Todd says.
Coming in the wake of the All Blacks' 16-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last year, Read found himself at the centre of doubts from fans and critics, with some even suggesting his time as captain was up.
Although the likes of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and All Blacks boss Steve Hansen publicly defended Read, the veteran number eight has let his performances do the talking heading to Japan, with sensational displays against Australia before last week's 92-7 victory over Tonga.
Speaking to Allblacks.com, teammate Todd hailed Read's turnaround, making his critics eat their words ahead of the quest for a third straight World Cup.
"He is a massively influential player right across the game; set-piece, kick-off, his ball skills you saw them in the middle of the field, his distributional carry," Todd said.
"He's a pretty special player and he can impact the game in so many different ways. He's been around a long time - he's an experienced player and I guess he's timing his run nicely.
"He's getting into some great form, he's excited and he obviously knows what's coming up and he's leading from the front, that's for sure."
Read will all but certainly lead the All Blacks in their first World Cup clash on September 21, taking on the Springboks in Yokohama.