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Read ready for 'big challenge'

New Zealand captain Kieran Read has promised his team will not underestimate France when the teams meet at Eden Park on Saturday in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final.

Les Bleus coach Philippe Saint-Andre is without seven first-choice players for the first Test in Auckland and has handed debuts to wing Adrien Plante and fly-half Camille Lopez.

But Read, skippering the world champions in the absence of Richie McCaw, said: "I expect a massive challenge, especially up front. We always respect the French and expect them to be on their game every Test. We know they've been waiting a long time for this and will be looking forward to a big challenge."

He added: "I think they've been working away on their scrum and it's always their biggest threat, so we'll expect it to come from there."

The game will carry extra significance as Eden Park, New Zealand's most iconic sporting venue, celebrates its centenary this year.

"It's pretty awesome to be wearing the jersey to commemorate it for rugby and cricket as well," added Read, whose side will wear commemorative shirts to mark the occasion.

France captain Thierry Dusautoir described the stadium as "the best place in the world to play rugby" - and would love to collect his first win there on what is likely to be his last appearance in Auckland.

"For us, playing in New Zealand is already nice, but playing at Eden Park is the best place for rugby in the world," he said.

"It (Eden Park) is part of the legend for us. Our coach (Philippe Saint-Andre) won at Eden Park and I played the final of a World Cup there. I hope to experience a victory there tomorrow for once because I think it will be my last game there."


From Belfast Telegraph