New Zealand vice captain Kieran Read has called on the All Blacks to take a big step up in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Christchurch on Friday this week.
The All Blacks will kick off the Rugby Championship a day earlier than rivals Australia and South Africa with a match against Argentina on Friday.
The Rugby Championship has been condensed into three rounds with an extra not for points round due to the Rugby World cup which starts in September this year.
A cold front has hit Australia and New Zealand which is in stark contrast to the conditions that the All Blacks played under Samoa when the heat left them gasping for air and water.
Read welcomed the chance to play in the cooler conditions which have reduced temperatures to single digits in Canterbury over the last week.
“It has been great,” Read told Stuff of the cooler weather.
“It has been great to get some fresh air into the lungs, which has been nice. The boys trained well on the ice earlier on, so no troubles at all.”
Read had a couple of weeks off after the Crusaders were eliminated before the Super Rugby play offs but returned for the Test against Samoa in Apia last Wednesday.
New Zealand won the Test 16-25 but they looked rusty and there was high number of turnovers including several lost balls from Read who prides himself on his ability to catch the most awkward passes.
“There are certainly a lot of things to improve on in our game,” he conceded.
“The most obvious one is holding the ball. If it is a few degrees cooler on Friday night it might allow us to do that.”
Changes in the All Black line up that played Samoa are expected as the test match was just days after the Hurricanes and Highlanders contested the Super Rugby final and players from both sides missed the first test of the year.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has just four tests to assess his combinations ahead of the Rugby World Cup and he can now select the players he wants from the Super Rugby finalists.
Read expects Argentina to play their traditional game against the All Blacks which includes trying to batter them through their forwards.
“Certainly we got a physical challenge in some respects against Samoa but the Argies will probably bring it in the forward pack; they will drive the maul, you know, take us on up front.”
“We have got to expect that and be prepared to work really hard. In the past when we have known it’s coming we have done well, so we just have to make sure we really switch into that mentality as forward pack to take it back to them.”
Argentina have left several key players behind for this week’s test but will still try and gain some intelligence on the All Blacks ahead of their Rugby World Cup Pool match between the teams at London’s Wembley Stadium on September 20.
In their final match of the four nation tournament last year the Pumas beat Australia which was their first ever Rugby Championship victory and they will have taken confidence from the milestone.
“We always get a tough test match against them,” said Read.
“They won a championship game last year, so they have got a bit of confidence coming down here – probably with not much to lose, really, building up to the World Cup. “
“Knowing we will play them later in the year they will just come and have a good crack at us.”