AUCKLAND, New Zealand - All Blacks captain Kieran Read left no room for argument Friday about the first Test against the British and Irish Lions - New Zealand expect to win.
While the Lions have talked up their ability to stifle the world champions and back their renowned rushed defence, Read was in no doubt the All Blacks would win the forwards battle and that their free-flowing backs would take the game.
"We'll go out there and expect to win," he said, as New Zealand wrapped up their training at Auckland's Eden Park.
"Everyone in New Zealand expects us to win and we have to go out there and do that. It doesn't just happen," said the 31-year-old back-rower, adding that the broken thumb that has sidelined him for the past eight weeks had fully healed.
It will be Read's 98th Test, and he has played in two World Cup-winning All Black sides.
But he rated the first Test of this Lions series as "probably the most important right now" in his illustrious career.
The All Blacks displayed their attacking abilities with 12 tries and piled on 50 points in the second half of a free-flowing warm-up match against Samoa last weekend.
But Read said the Lions Test was a different beast with the result to be determined by forward power.
"Whoever dominates the set piece, ruck area will have a strong (chance) of winning the game," he said.
Historically, the All Blacks have dominated the Lions, claiming 10 of the previous 11 series and winning 29 of 38 Tests, and Read said defending that record meant a lot.
"There's always pressure on us and we don't mind pressure. Losing would be pretty bad," he said.
"Every time we lose is something we don't like so we're just prepared to go out there and play our game. Our perspective is the challenge.
"We know it's going to be a massive challenge and this group of All Blacks, we want to go out there and take that head on, embrace it."
The captain also believed his side had ways to handle the rush defence which the Lions have used effectively in their tour matches.
"Playing rugby at the right end of the field is one," he said.