Kieran Read returns to lead New Zealand against the Lions

He was struggling with a thumb injury

Kieran Read returns to lead New Zealand against the Lions

Kieran Read. Image: ©INPHO/Photosport/Andrew Cornaga

Kieran Read returns to captain the All Blacks against the Lions in the first test of the series this Saturday.

Head Coach Steve Hansen named a front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock starting at lock. 

Read is joined in the back row by Jerome Kaino and Sam Cane.

Aaron Smith and Beuden Barrett are paired at half-back with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty completing the midfield.

Ben Smith starts at full-back with Rieko Ioane and Israel Dagg on the wings. 

Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga and Anton Lienert-Brown are all named on the bench.

"This was a really tough team to pick," said Hansen, adding: "Because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test."

"We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. It'll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It'll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

"There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It's something we're really looking forward to and we can't wait," he added.