AUCKLAND (Reuters) - All Blacks captain Kieran Read says the team do not feel burdened by the phenomenal level of success they have enjoyed and, like the entire country, they expect nothing less than victory in their series against the British and Irish Lions.
The All Blacks enter Saturday’s first test as favourites, having not lost at Eden Park since 1994, a run of 38 matches. They have also won 46 successive games in New Zealand dating back to a 2009 defeat to South Africa.
The All Blacks, world champions in 2011 and 2015, took the pace of their game to new levels last year and showed in a 78-0 thrashing of Samoa last week how dangerous they are with the ball in hand, running in 12 tries.
”There is always pressure on us,“ Read told reporters at Eden Park on Friday on the eve of the first test. ”We don’t mind pressure.
”We will go out there and expect to win, like everyone else in New Zealand will expect us to win.
”We love winning. That is one (factor) that drives you. But you can’t always be focussed on winning.
“You have to focus on getting better as a team. This is probably a series where yep, winning is a high motivation, but if you focus on the outcome then you’ll slip up ... (and) losing would be pretty bad and it’s not something we like.”
However, Read is aware of the threat posed by the visitors.
The Lions have impressed with some strong performances in the last 10 days, with a forward-oriented game that controls possession and shuts down the opposition with a lightning fast defensive line.
Read, like coach Steve Hansen, said the test was likely to be decided by winning the key battles.
”Most test matches come down to a few moments and the team that wins, essentially win the key moments,“ Read said. ”If you look across the board the Lions have a team who can do that.
”We have to be physical and give ourselves opportunities. If we’re given those opportunities we have to take them.
“It all comes down to the simple things done well.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford