Thursday 18 January 2018

Kiwis to go full tilt

Brendan Gallagher

Just when you thought it could not get much more wintry out there, Graham Henry sent an extra shiver down Wales' fans spines by spelling out New Zealand's approach to this evening's Test against Wales:

"I would like to see us smash the Welsh. It's the final game of the series and we would like to make a statement."

Ouch. While appreciating that full-bore is the default setting for most All Blacks teams, there were still those who wondered hopefully if, after 13 Test matches in five months and their fifth international on consecutive Saturdays on tour, New Zealand might subconsciously ease off a little and become more vulnerable. A third northern hemisphere Grand Slam since 2005 beckons, as does a world points record for Dan Carter.

Keven Mealamu will be looking to make a point on his return from suspension, Sonny Bill Williams will be relishing another run-out at centre, while Sam Whitelock is looking to nail down a place in the second row.

The days of Henry systematically rotating his squad from Test to Test have long gone but, ironically, that controversial policy is belatedly bearing fruit. No less than 16 of the current New Zealand squad toured on both the 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam tours and for all the new players New Zealand have been filtering into the squad with a view to next year's World Cup, there remains a formidable hard-nosed core of experience within. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales -- L Byrne; G North, T Shanklin, J Hook, T James; S Jones, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees (capt), A Jones; B Davies, A-Wyn Jones; D Lydiate, S Warburton, R Jones. Reps: H Bennett, P James, J Thomas, A Powell, M Williams, R Rees, A Bishop.

New Zealand -- M Muliaina; I Toeava, C Smith, S Bill Williams, H Gear; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks; B Thorn, S Whitelock; J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Reps: A Hore, J Afoa, A Boric, D Braid, A Ellis, S Donald, Ma'a Nonu.

Wales v New Zealand,

Live, Setanta Ireland, BBC2, 5.15

Irish Independent

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