Foster upbeat over Read fitness for first Lions Test

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Kieran Read remains on course to return from his broken thumb and captain New Zealand in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions, All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has confirmed.

Read was injured on Super Rugby duty for the Crusaders at the end of April, but is scheduled to make his comeback at Eden Park on Saturday.

"He doesn't want to miss it. He is desperate to play. He is our leader, so that's natural," said Foster.

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

"It was a little bit touch and go for last week whether there was a chance to get him a few minutes under his belt [in the All Blacks' 78-0 thrashing of Samoa]. 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 it becomes a reasonably easy decision."

Foster underlined the importance of Read - who will earn his 100th cap in the third Test against the Lions if he plays a full part in the series - to the All Blacks.

"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 [was impressive]," Foster added.

"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 player group around him and earned a lot of respect for that.

"To have Reado back would be a real boost for us."