The All Blacks will be aiming to rediscover their killer instinct when they come up against Wales in this Saturday’s season-ending Test, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The word out of the All Blacks camp this week has been plenty of talk about the need for an improvement in attitude, patience and accuracy this Saturday.
To date, these elements have been uncharacteristically missing on the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour, with the world champs producing a lacklustre second-half display against France before battling to a rather fortunate win over Scotland last weekend.
After a few other scratchy performances by New Zealand this year, it’s led to gradually increasing speculation that the All Blacks’ aura of invincibility has begun to wane in 2017.
Although the New Zealand coaches have pointed to the fact that they are missing a number of first-choice players, there is no doubt that behind closed doors they will have been imploring their charges to rediscover a ruthless edge in Cardiff this Saturday.
Considering that this will be the last Test of the year for these teams, they certainly won’t be lacking any motivation. For Wales, it’s an opportunity to end the season with a famous victory, while the All Blacks will be determined to underline their enduring class and quality.
Wales have been boosted by the return of captain Alun Wyn Jones, who will start in one of several changes for this clash, although the hosts are without influential duo Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies.
The All Blacks have suffered a blow after skipper Kieran Read was ruled out with injury, while powerful lock Luke Romano is also unavailable.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953, and there’s nothing to suggest this will change just yet. As it is, a second-string Welsh side managed to clinch only an unconvincing 13-6 win over lowly Georgia last weekend.
The real question is whether the All Blacks can display a greater respect for possession and produce an accurate 80-minute performance that would send out a timely reminder of their complete capabilities.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
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