All Blacks primed for the 'real deal', says captain Read

New Zealand number eight is confident his team is in fine shape for the knockout stages, despite their extended break.

TOKYO, Oct 13 - After a strange weekend featuring darts, comedy movies and staring out of windows at the rain, Kieran Read is adamant that his New Zealand team is primed and ready for the week of Rugby World Cup knockout action that he hails as the "real deal".

His champions will not have played a match for more than two weeks by the time they meet Ireland on Saturday, which has led to some speculation that they may have lost a touch of sharpness by the time they face a rather more formidable proposition than their last two outings against Canada and Namibia.

Yet after being relieved to get out and train in the sunshine on Sunday after being "hunkered down" playing games in the team room of their plush central Tokyo hotel for the previous 24 hours while waiting for Typhoon Hagibis to blow itself out, Read is confident the team is in fine shape for the serious stuff.

"This is the real deal right now for us," said Read. "So this week, we don't perform, we go home. We are mentally going to have to be a lot stronger and step up. Pressure comes with final games."

It is pressure the All Blacks dealt with admirably in their 2011 and 2015 triumphs, having beaten Argentina, Australia twice, France twice and South Africa in the knockout contests.

If they lose at the quarter-final stage, just as they did in 2007 against France - their last World Cup defeat before 17 straight wins - it would, naturally, be a monumental upset, and one that the 33-year-old serial winner Read has clearly not even contemplated.

His garlanded international career will be over when he joins the Japanese club Toyota Verblitz after the tournament, yet when asked if he was prepared to face the reality that any defeat would be his final appearance in an All Blacks shirt, he seemed non-plussed by the question.

"It hasn’t even crossed my mind - you caught me off guard there," he said, before beaming: "It is what it is. I know where I want to end."

That is, at the International Stadium Yokohama on November 2, where the great number eight has the chance to add to the resume that, apart from two World Cup triumphs, includes seven wins in the Rugby Championship, 11 Bledisloe Cups and being voted the world’s best player in 2013.

He will captain the All Blacks for the 50th time against Ireland, a total only Richie McCaw has topped and, along with fellow treble seekers Sam Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams, he is the ideal man to ensure his side have not taken their foot off the pedal with the cancellation of their final pool match against Italy.

The All Blacks have lost two of their past four matches played after a two-week break in the Rugby Championship but with no injury or suspension absences and having enjoyed a fierce training session on Friday, Read said: "We needed something like that physical hit-out, today we've been at the gym setting ourselves up for the week ahead so I think we're in pretty good shape.

"The eight teams left are capable of winning the competition and it's about who can step up to the pressure moment when the opportunity presents itself."

RNS ic/djk/ajr