New Zealand v Lions: Kieran Read returns to captain All Blacks in first Test

Kieran Read
Read succeeded Richie McCaw as captain following New Zealand's triumph at the 2015 World Cup
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions, first Test
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 24 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Number eight Kieran Read will return from injury to captain New Zealand in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday.

Read, 31, has not played since April because of a broken thumb.

Wing Rieko Ioane will win his third cap, while Ryan Crotty partners Sonny Bill Williams in the centre.

"This was a really tough team to pick. There were a number of players in great form vying for positions," said All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

Read, who has won 97 caps, and Crotty, who had a rib injury, missed world champions New Zealand's 78-0 victory over Samoa on Friday.

"They've both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they're really excited at what's ahead of us," added Hansen.

Ioane, who is selected ahead of the prolific Julian Savea, has featured twice against the Lions on this tour, scoring a try in the Blues' victory in Auckland.

Hansen added: "I'd also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing."

The Lions play three Tests against New Zealand, who have not lost at Eden Park since 1994.

"We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team, probably one of the best to have toured here," said Hansen.

"The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

"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."

Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga have been named as fly-half cover, with a decision to be made on Thursday.

The Lions have won four and lost two of their warm-up matches on the tour of New Zealand.

New Zealand team: B Smith; I Dagg, R Crotty, SB Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read (capt).

Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden/L Sopoaga, A Lienert-Brown.

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