AUCKLAND, June 24 (Reuters) - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised captain Kieran Read's outstanding performance that lead to his side's 30-15 victory over the British and Irish Lions in the first test at Eden Park on Saturday.
Read had barely played this season after undergoing surgeries on his wrist and a broken thumb.
Playing his first match in almost eight weeks, the 31-year-old number eight was superb in all aspects of the highly competitive game, taking the ball into contact, making massive tackles and leading the side around the field.
"The bloke to my left here was outstanding," Hansen told reporters as he nodded towards Read at the news conference.
"He might be a bit grumpy with me because he played 75 minutes, which wasn't too bad after seven weeks holiday.
"To be the All Blacks captain you have to have a lot of character and courage and be a fierce warrior. Richie (McCaw) showed that over a number of years, previous captains have done that and now it's Reado's turn.
"There was no hesitation to ask him to step up and play because that's what All Blacks' captains do."
Read added he thought the Lions were incredibly difficult to put away, particularly as they regained some of the momentum just before halftime with Sean O'Brien's length of the field try.
"It was a true test out there. It took us about 60 minutes before we managed to string together some opportunities and finish them off," Read said.
"In that first half it was really intense. Test rugby takes a bit off time to wear teams down and when you get those opportunities you have to do that.
"We had to work hard for that, I guess momentum changed a few times in that game and we had to scramble really well and take our opportunities."
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury,; Editing by Pritha Sarkar