Kieran Read concedes British and Irish Lions have early advantage as he continues recovery from injury

Despite the rigorous 10-game schedule, the Lions will benefit from spending three weeks together before the first Test against Read's All Blacks side

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The Independent Online

Kieran Read stoked the flames ahead of the British and Irish Lions squad’s arrival in Auckland on Wednesday morning by admitting that the tourists have an early advantage in having three weeks to prepare for the first Test against the All Blacks.

Much of the build-up to the tour of New Zealand has been of the hectic schedule that Warren Gatland’s side will face upon their arrival, with the first warm-up match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians taking place just 80 hours after they touch down on Wednesday afternoon.

With 10 matches scheduled in just 31 days, there are already fears that the Lions squad could burn out on their most tightly-packed schedule yet, but All Blacks captain Read believes that the time together before the three Test series will still give them an advantage over the reigning world champions, who only have one warm-up match against Samoa scheduled eight days before the first Test in Auckland on 24 June.

“I think their advantage is they will have been together for a few weeks already and they’ll have three or four games before that first Test,” Read told TVNZ1 this morning after unveiling the new Adidas kit that the All Blacks will wear against the Lions.

“It’s a great side that they’re bringing over, lots of good players and players with lots of experience, especially in their forward pack. It’s going to have to be something that we’re really wary about but saying that, I think we’re really excited about the challenge of it all and can’t wait to get going in a few weeks.”

While the five matches before the Auckland encounter will put the Lions in good stead for their quest to record a first series win over New Zealand in 46 years, Read himself could well be undercooked. The No 8 is recovering from a broken thumb that he suffered while playing for the Crusaders during the Super Rugby season, and is still wearing a cast on his right hand just three days before the Lions tour begins.

However, while the injury will likely rule him out of the Crusaders’ fixture against the Lions a week on Saturday, he is confident of being fit in time to lead his side out at Eden Park next month.

“The hand’s good. It’s got better,” he said.  “It’s still in the old cast for another week or so and then I’ll be fit.

“It’s just a cast, it was a break so it comes off in a week and a bit and then I’ve got a few weeks to get it right so it should be all good.”

Read still has a cast on his right hand from his broken thumb (Getty)

One of the things that Read is looking forward to most about the series is experiencing the tour and the floods of fans that will travel to the Southern Hemisphere from Britain and Ireland, given he did not have the chance to see what the atmosphere was like 12 years ago when the Lions last toured New Zealand.

“I was out of the country in Argentina of all places with the New Zealand Under-21s, so back then internet wasn’t really that flash and we didn’t get to see too much of the games to be honest,” Read said.

“I’m looking forward to the whole vibe of the Test matches. I really got a feel of just how big it was by the people back home and the amount of supporters that came over and really got a feel for what it was.”