Belfast Telegraph

All Blacks must be even hungrier this time around, blasts Read


By Jack de Menezes

Kieran Read is fully aware of the danger that the wounded Lions will pose this morning and has called on his teammates to fight fire with fire and match the intensity they displayed to win the World Cup nearly two years ago to wrap up the three-Test series with a game to spare.

The All Blacks captain delivered one of his finest performances in the first Test to help New Zealand go 1-0 up and put the Lions on the brink of a fifth consecutive series defeat, having missed the past eight weeks with a broken thumb.

The 31-year-old will again lead his side out for his 99th cap in Wellington, and he will do so against a Lions side that has its back against the wall knowing that defeat will end the Test series as a contest, and lead to plenty of questions back home about what happened to the "strongest squad" for the last four tours, according to head coach Warren Gatland.

Read has been here before though, having been involved in two World Cup finals, and he believes a match of this magnitude compares to those two triumphs in 2011 and 2015.

"In a sense it compares in terms of the one-off nature of the game - they win, they level the series, we win, we win the series," Read said yesterday.

"It is pretty special and comes round every 12 years, which is another factor of that. I hope that it is not lost on our players. We knew last week we were in a massive Test match - it is not going to be easier, it will be a lot tougher, so I am looking forward to that."

The No.8 is quickly forging his own captaincy out of the large shadow left by former skipper Richie McCaw, with head coach Steve Hansen praising Read in the aftermath of the first Test for the way he performed in Auckland last weekend.

Read's rallying call, as captain of arguably the most dominant side in world sport, came yesterday when he made it clear to the rest of the side that the same display that beat the Lions last weekend will not be enough this time around given that Gatland's side know anything but victory will not be enough to maintain their hopes of winning the series.

"I think it will be a step up," Read said. "You put those things on the line and it makes teams both pretty ruthless and wanting to do the best they can.

"For us we've got to have that same mind-set, we can't just be waiting for what they're going to bring, we've got to go out there and take it ourselves and lead with our game and impart our game on them."

Read added: "You can't just roll out the same game plan as you had in the first game, you have to adjust and adapt to what is presented your way.

"Both teams have done that - if anything it is going to be even more physical. I cannot wait for that battle. There will be slight changes so we will have to be good enough to pick out what they are and utilise that to our advantage."

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