All Blacks captain Kieran Read says his team do not feel burdened by the phenomenal level of success they have enjoyed and, like the entire country, they expect nothing less than victory in their series against the British and Irish Lions.
The All Blacks enter Saturday’s first test as favourites, having not lost at Eden Park since 1994, a run of 38 matches. They have also won 46 successive games in New Zealand dating back to a 2009 defeat to South Africa.
The All Blacks, world champions in 2011 and 2015, took the pace of their game to new levels last year and showed in a 78-0 thrashing of Samoa last week how dangerous they are with the ball in hand, running in 12 tries.
“There is always pressure on us,” Read said at Eden Park on Friday on the eve of the first Test. “We don’t mind pressure.
“We will go out there and expect to win, like everyone else in New Zealand will expect us to win.
“We love winning. That is one (factor) that drives you. But you can’t always be focussed on winning.
“You have to focus on getting better as a team. This is probably a series where yep, winning is a high motivation, but if you focus on the outcome then you’ll slip up … (and) losing would be pretty bad and it’s not something we like.”
However, Read is aware of the threat posed by the visitors.
The Lions have impressed with some strong performances in the last 10 days, with a forward-oriented game that controls possession and shuts down the opposition with a lightning fast defensive line.
Read, like coach Steve Hansen, said the test was likely to be decided by winning the key battles.
“Most Test matches come down to a few moments and the team that wins, essentially win the key moments,” Read said. “If you look across the board the Lions have a team who can do that.
“We have to be physical and give ourselves opportunities. If we’re given those opportunities we have to take them.
“It all comes down to the simple things done well.”
Conor Murray insists the Lions have the credentials to end rugby’s most daunting streak, in Saturday’s first Test at that stronghold.
“We’ve all played at Eden Park, we know how tough it is to play there,” said Murray, who will partner Owen Farrell at half-back.
“Teams have come close here and home nations sides have beaten New Zealand before – so we’re drawing on that more than the Eden Park record.
“It is a really impressive record.
“But if ever there was a team that has the potential – if we click, we’re excited about what we can do.”
France remain the last team to sink New Zealand at Eden Park, conjuring up a last-gasp try to prevail 23-20, some 23 years ago.
The All Blacks drew their very next game after that defeat, held 18-18 by South Africa on August 6, 1994.
But since then the current back-to-back world champions have dispatched all comers for a commanding 37 straight victories.
The Lions have only won once at Eden Park, in 1959, losing seven clashes and drawing once.
The world’s current most dominant force became the first side in Test history to pass 15,000 points in their Samoa thrashing in their Lions warm-up clash on June 16.
So there can be no more daunting task than bidding to overhaul the All Blacks in Auckland.
Murray believes the Lions know their route to victory – but conceded knowing it and taking it remain separated by a wide berth.
Murray excelled as Ireland claimed their first-ever win over the All Blacks in 111 years of trying, in the superlative 40-29 victory in Chicago on November 5 last year.
The 28-year-old was also on hand when New Zealand got out of jail to edge to a last-gasp 24-22 win in Dublin on November 24, 2013.
And he has detailed both experiences to the 2017 Lions in a bid to underline just how vital it is to keep on attacking the All Blacks, a team that never relent.
“You’ve got to be confident and willing to play rugby against the All Blacks,” said Murray, who has won 57 caps for Ireland and two for the Lions.
“I learned in 2013 in Dublin, we got quite a good lead and probably panicked and tried to maintain and hold out.
“Looking back on Chicago you’ve got to keep going, keep attacking, not go into your shell.
“That’s easier said than done. But for me that’s the main thing, just keep playing.”