All Blacks captain back in training

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has started running and lifting weights during his sabbatical.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw holds the Webb Ellis cup. Picture: AFP

WELLINGTON - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has started running and lifting weights again though whether he plays the tail end of the Super Rugby competition was still up in the air.

The 32-year-old loose forward is in the midst of a New Zealand Rugby Union-sanctioned six-month sabbatical from all rugby and will miss next month's three-test series against France as a result.

McCaw had spent some time travelling around North America and Europe during his sabbatical, which is scheduled to finish in late June, in time for the Canterbury Crusaders' final regular season games against the Waikato Chiefs and Wellington Hurricanes.

The six-team playoffs series begins on 19 July with the Super Rugby final on 3 August.

"When I'm back playing is still in the air a bit," McCaw was quoted as saying by Fairfax Media on Thursday.

"I'll get these next couple of months training (done), then it will come down to a discussion with (coach) Todd (Blackadder) and what's best for them and what's best for me.

"We'll make the decision going forward."

McCaw had begun running and done a weights session last week but would now look to increase the workload as he builds towards a possible return for the end of the Super Rugby season, though more likely the Rugby Championship tournament involving Australia, South Africa and Argentina that starts on 17 August.

"I've got a bit of time to get fit," he added.

"Last week was about getting the dust off. Next week I'll ramp it up a bit. I want to make sure when I'm back playing, I'm in good shape.

"If I get the next couple of months done right, hopefully we'll be in good shape to do what's needed."

McCaw's team mate Kieran Read, who is likely to replace the flanker as All Blacks' captain for the tests against France, has returned from a long-term toe injury for the Crusaders' match against the Auckland Blues on Saturday.

Read suffered a partial tear of ligaments in his toe in the Crusaders' 55-20 victory over the Southern Kings on 23 March.

The 27-year-old number eight's return will be welcomed by the Crusaders, who had a bye last week but beat the table-topping ACT Brumbies 30-23 in Canberra on 5 May giving them some impetus into the final part of the season.