British and Irish Lions: New Zealand captain Kieran Read confident of being fit

New Zealand captain Kieran Read
Kieran Read had surgery on a fractured thumb in April
British and Irish Lions 2017
Date: 3 June - 8 July Venue: New Zealand
Coverage: Live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

New Zealand captain Kieran Read says he is confident he will be fit to play in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions.

The number eight is recovering from a fractured thumb and faces a race to be available for the opener on 24 June.

"I'm confident. I'll back the medical team, but it should be all right," Read told BBC Sport.

"At the end of next week I'll be out of a cast, so should be good to go in a few weeks after that."

Speaking on Wednesday when the Lions arrived in New Zealand, Read said the series rivals a World Cup and that he believes the All Blacks are ready to meet the expectation of a nation.

He added that he is honoured to be leading his country in such an historic event.

"It's awesome," the Crusaders player added. "You are lucky to play them in your career. If your career spans a Lions tour, it's a really fortunate thing.

"To captain the All Blacks is a massive honour and I just can't wait for the series to kick off. We know how big the challenge is going to be."

The Lions arrive at the end of their domestic season and face a daunting schedule with a lack of preparation time.

As a result, Read accepts the pressure is on the hosts, but feels his players will be able to cope with the demands of the New Zealand public.

"The importance New Zealanders place on winning this series is massive, and we all appreciate that," Read continued.

"If we don't win, then certainly it will be really disappointing from our point of view.

"But that's not the way you look at things; you look at these series as opportunities. There is always pressure on us to win, and we know that. A little bit of extra pressure is sometimes nice for the group.

"Both teams are going to be giving it everything and I'm sure it's going to be a great series."

Read's opposite number in the Test series would have likely been England and Saracens' Billy Vunipola, but he has withdrawn from the tour with a shoulder injury.

However Read feels his replacement, who is likely to be Bath's Taulupe Faletau, will be able to fill the void.

"Billy has been awesome the last couple of years," Read said. "But it's one of those things, and the next guy will step up, whether it's Taulupe or someone else."

The last time New Zealand hosted the Lions in 2005 they swept to a 3-0 series win, with fly-half Dan Carter playing a starring role.

Read says the current incumbent at number 10, Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett, is capable of doing the same this time around.

"He's probably already there in some ways," Read said.

"There are some talented guys in this country, and it's about opportunities.

"The spotlight is on us and the Lions players in the series, and that's what makes it pretty special to be a part of."

  • You can hear more from Kieran Read on the Dawson and Mehrtens Lions show on Thursday, 1 June from 20:00 BST on BBC Radio 5 live.

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