Signs positive for Read

New Zealand captain Kieran Read looks set to be fit for the first Test of their series against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.

Read, who has been out with a thumb injury, had been in a race against time to return for the series and it appears he is winning that race.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster gave an update to the media on Tuesday, which hailed Read, 31, and also leaned towards a return.

"Firstly, he didn't want to miss it [the opening Test]," coach Foster revealed. "He is desperate to play. He is our leader, so that's natural.

"Secondly, the diagnosis has always been that he was going to be due to play this game, and we have been monitoring that progress versus the initial diagnosis.

"It was a little bit touch and go for last week [against Samoa] whether there was a chance to get him a few minutes under his belt. It didn't happen, but we are pretty satisfied.

"He has had his first real solid hit-out with contact and everything, and hopefully he comes through that really well by the end of the day, and then it becomes a reasonably easy decision."

Foster added on his leadership: "He has been a big part of the leadership group for a long time now, and just the way he grew into the [captaincy] role last year.

"The biggest accolade I can give him is the way he grew people around him. He has a very inclusive leadership style, encourages a lot of decision-making from the group around him and earned a lot of respect for that. To have Reado back would be a real boost for us."