Crotty – ‘Read is ready to lead’

Ryan Crotty believes All Blacks captain Kieran Read is well capable of stepping back into the top level of rugby after recovering from injury.

Read has not played for eight weeks since the injury but Crotty said, "If anyone can Reado can.

"I know he's been working blooming hard to get right for this. You can still run when our thumb is in plaster and he's been running so he'll be fit. He's as mentally tough as anyone and he'll be up for it no doubt as we all are, and I can't wait to see him go because when he's at the top of his game he's the best in the world," he said.

Crotty had been extremely disappointed to miss the Crusaders' game against the Lions with his own injury but not playing had been the correct decision and he was looking forward to having his opportunity in Auckland.

He had watched all the games on television and had enjoyed it, it was a good time for rugby in New Zealand, he said.

"There's a certain trend to the way they play, all the midfielders they have had are very strong, direct, good ball-carrying mid-fielders and that's a good trait of northern hemisphere rugby," he said.

There had been some individual aspects to each of their players and he had been able to get a feel for the way they liked to play rugby.

Making an adjustment from second five-eighths to centre for the Test was not too much of an issue. Second five-eighths tended to be more confrontational whereas at centre there was a lot more space to defend.

"I've played both positions a lot and am confident I will be able to get the job done at 13," he said.

Crotty said playing with Sonny Bill Williams was a lot like playing with Anton Lienert-Brown.

"They're both big, strong, ball-carrying midfielders, probably two of the best off-loaders in the game. I just need to focus on my strengths and what I bring to the team," he said.

Barrett, asked about the importance of the cross-kick he has specialised with this year, said it may be important but it would depend if the tactic was on.

"It's one way we choose to attack. I can't tell you if it is going to be important or not, it depends on what comes," he said.

Lining up against a composite side, Barrett said there were different aspects involved than would be seen against the individual countries, but they had been able to see some of the Lions' emphasis in their tour games while always being ready for variations on what had been tried.

"They do focus on set-piece like a lot of teams but just the small variations of the set-piece differs for each team, we can only assume what they're going to bring on Saturday," he said.

Looking at the All Blacks choice of Rieko Ioane on the wing, Barrett said he was very excited about his selection.

"Playing against him is tough so to see him on the same side this weekend is pretty exciting. Watching him train and doing his thing, he just has to go out there and play footy and do what he does best. I can tell you he is very excited and I am just as excited for him," he said.