Whitelock wants Read to 'lead from the front' against Lions

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Sam Whitelock will look to New Zealand captain Kieran Read to "lead from the front" against the British and Irish Lions in the first Test on Saturday.

Read has been out of action since April after suffering a thumb injury, but the Crusaders number eight is expected to face Warren Gatland's men at Eden Park this weekend.

All Blacks lock Whitelock does not see any issue with Read making his return in a game of such magnitude in Auckland.

Whitelock said: "He'll hopefully bring that Kieran Read way of playing, he'll lead from the front.

"It's awesome when he does that and he plays great rugby when he's being himself and taking the lead.

"He's always targeted this game to get back. He's had time to get his head around it,

"He's been working really hard with the trainer and physios to get right for this game. When he gets that opportunity, he'll take it with both hands."

Whitelock said the world champions are relishing the challenge of taking on the tourists in what promises to be a gripping series.

"Some guys can have outstanding careers and yet never get to play against them," the two-time World-Cup winner added.

"It's very fortunate for this current squad to be involved. It's one of those things that we've been talking about all year. Now it's here and the boys are really excited.

"You can see the energy out there. It's something really easy to get up for. It's like you're on a rollercoaster every day."