Thursday 21 September 2017

Kieran Read expects Lions to be at 'top of their powers' for All Blacks clash

New Zealand captain Kieran Read expects to face a team "at the top of their powers" in Saturday's British and Irish Lions first Test showdown.

Read, who will wear protection on his right hand after suffering a broken thumb that has sidelined him since late April, will line up for the 98th time in All Blacks colours.

And the double World Cup winner has no doubt where a Lions Test series ranks in terms of career challenges.

"They have picked a form team," the All Blacks number eight said. "That is what we have to expect - a team at the top of their powers and coming at us.

"Most Test matches and tight games come down to a few moments.

"They come down to the team that wins those tough battles in Test matches, which is set-piece, getting off the line, ensuring you win a dominant battle out there. The Lions have a team who can do that.

"We will have to be pretty physical ourselves and give ourselves opportunities and be good enough to take them.

"I think it will be an enthralling contest. I can't wait to get involved.

"They have their best players across the four teams, and they play their own style, but a Test match is about who is willing to put their body on the line for the longest. We are willing to go there for 80 minutes."

The All Blacks' spiritual home - Eden Park - will host Saturday's clash. New Zealand are unbeaten on the ground since 1994.

"Essentially it is our home," Read added. "We play across the venues in New Zealand, but this is probably the one we feel the most at home at.

"We have won the World Cup there, played some big games and have great support.

"It doesn't necessarily mean anything heading into Saturday, but it is certainly something we enjoy, coming to play in front of a great crowd.

"There is always pressure on us. We don't mind pressure. Losing would be pretty bad - any time we lose, it is something that we don't like.

"From our perspective, it is a massive challenge. As All Blacks, we want to take that head-on and embrace it. If you are worried about results or what could happen, your mind is off the job.

"We will go out there and expect to win, as probably everyone in New Zealand will expect us to win, but we have got to make sure we go out there and do that. It doesn't just happen. "

Read, meanwhile, is fully fit and ready for a return to action, eight weeks after his last game.

"I feel spot-on," he said. "I can handle a handshake and 80 minutes of Test footy. The emotions and adrenalin will kick in on Saturday, and I am really pumped for it.

"This series has been billed pretty big, and both teams are raring to go. The history isn't lost on us, and it's an awesome opportunity to get into it."

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