Wales Won’t Be Easy For All-Blacks
Wales V New Zealand
After a close contest v Scotland, the All-Blacks travel west to Cardiff for their final autumn international against Wales.
2014 has been a difficult year for Wales. After a lacklustre attempt to defend their Six Nations title, they embarked on an unsuccessful summer mini-tour of South Africa, losing both their Tests. The return to Welsh soil this autumn hasn’t seen an upturn in performances, as they once again came up short against Australia, losing 33-28 before scrambling to a lacklustre four point win over Fiji last weekend.
Their twenty-two game unbeaten run came to an end in Johannesburg last month, but otherwise, it has been another year of world domination by the All Blacks. They whitewashed England 3-0 in the summer, won their third Rugby Championship with a game to spare and began their northern hemisphere tour with a fifth consecutive victory over England and a battling win in Scotland.
After changing over half his side for the Fiji game, Warren Gatland has made more changes to the Welsh team, which will have an experienced look and will be more or less the same fifteen that took on Australia two weeks ago. Leigh Halfpenny has recovered from concussion and will replace Liam Williams, while Richard Hibbard and Jonathan Davies also return to the side after injuries.
The biggest headache for All Black coach Steven Hansen concerns the fly half position. Dan Carter returned against Scotland but looked rusty and was replaced. Aaron Cruden will be keen to regain the number ten jersey, Beauden Barrett will be keen to prove himself and Colin Slade is another option, as he impressed when slotting into the fly-half position for the last half an hour at Murrayfield.
Head to Head
Wales have beaten New Zealand, in fact, they once had a run of three wins in four games against the All Blacks. But the first of those victories was in 1905, the latest came in 1953 and since then the head to head record is nothing but a long list of defeats, twenty-five of them in all.
The closest they came to breaking that run of failure was at the Millennium Stadium in 2004, when they led 14-13 at half time only to lose the game 26-25.
But their last match against New Zealand, two years ago, conformed to the normal pattern. The All-Blacks took a 23-0 half time lead and won the game by the same margin, scoring three tries to the home side’s two.
Wales have a tendency to start slowly in their autumn internationals and we can expect them to raise their game this weekend. But that is unlikely to be enough to beat a side that in strong in every department, and even when having an off day, can find a way to win.
Realistically the best that Wales can hope for is to get within ten points of the tourists, but they have a fighting chance of getting within fifteen.
Back Wales +13 at Evens in the Match Handicap market.