Wednesday 13 December 2017

Davies expects Gatland to spring surprise on Kiwis

Simon Turnbull

For Bradley Davies, the equation is simple. "We win and we have celebration dinners for the next 50 years," the Cardiff second-row said.

The question is how a Welsh team who played with statuesque mobility against Argentina and Samoa are going to find a way to beat New Zealand come the time of reckoning at the Millennium Stadium today.

The good news for Davies and his colleagues is that the world champions will be without Dan Carter. The princely fly-half misses his team's tea-time Test in the Principality after tweaking his right ankle in training on Thursday.

It is understood that the leading international points scorer of all time underwent an MRI scan yesterday before the decision was made to replace him with Aaron Cruden.

The bad news for Wales is they will still be facing 15 men in black. They will do so, of course, with Warren Gatland back at the helm.

The Kiwi, who guided Wales to the World Cup semi-final a year ago, assumes the head coach reins from Rob Howley after time out recovering from a fall and preparing the groundwork for his mission in charge of the Lions in Australia next summer.

Gatland hinted at the possibility of a tactical variation or two in an effort to enliven a team who have fallen to eighth in the world rankings and who were a plodding shadow of their dynamic 2011 World Cup and 2012 Six Nations selves in their opening two autumn tests – a 26-12 loss to Argentina and a 26-19 reverse against Samoa.

Asked how Gatland planned to change things, Davies replied: "Our forwards are playing in the backs. Our backs are playing in the forwards."

It will take more than a cunning plan of Baldrickian proportions for Wales to overcome a New Zealand side who are unbeaten in 19 games.

It will be a help, though, that Carter is not facing them.

Carter's absence aside, the All Blacks have yet to lose under Steve Hansen, the former Wales head coach who succeeded Graham Henry in the wake of the World Cup. Wales have scored just the one try thus far this autumn and have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953.

Their prospects have hardly been helped by George North joining an injured list that already included Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones.

"It's about getting our minds right, believing we can do it, and all of us putting in a 'nine out of 10'. If we do that, I think we can win," said Davies. (© Independent News Service)

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