Saturday, November 7, 2009

Touchline duel: Wales V New Zealand

Wales coach Warren Gatland is absolutely right, New Zealand have lost their aura but whether this was the right week to express that view is another question. Gatland should simply concentrate on producing a team which truly believes they can beat New Zealand. The All Blacks coaches are swapping roles for the autumn which will be all fine and dandy as long as they keep winning. Lose and the knives will be out.

Head to head: Great match ups all over the park, not least Martyn Williams taking on Richie McCaw again, but the clash worth the admission price alone will be the thunderous tete at tere between Jamie Roberts and Ma'a Nonu. Both blockbusting centres are much more skilful than often given credit but it will be the bone on bone crunch of combat that draws the eye.

 Talking tactics: South Africa have mastered New Zealand by dominating the All Blacks in the setpiece but Wales don't have the heavy artillery to achieve that although they have been working like Trojans at their scrummaging. Wales have a very useful back division and need to play to that strength, even if it opens up the game for the equally dangerous Kiwi runners.

And another thing: Wales have conceded an average of 37 points per game in their five matches - and five defeats - against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium.
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Wales: J Hook (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Cardiff Blues); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), P James (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Powell (Cardiff Blues), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).

Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), M Roberts (Scarlets), J Davies (Scarlets), T James (Cardiff Blues).

New Zealand: M Muliaina (Waikato Chiefs); C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, Z Guildford (all Wellington Hurricanes); D Carter (Canterbury Crusaders), B Leonard (Waikato Chiefs); W Crockett (Canterbury Crusaders), A Hore, N Tialata (both Wellington Hurricanes), B Thorn (Canterbury Crusaders), J Eaton (Wellington Hurricanes), J Kaino (Auckland Blues), R McCaw (capt), K Read (both Canterbury Crusaders).

Replacements: C Flynn, O Franks (both Canterbury Crusaders), T Donnelly, A Thomson, J Cowan (all Otago Highlanders), S Donald (Waikato Chiefs), B Smith (Otago Highlanders).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

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