11 Jun 2016

New All Blacks era begins

5:33 pm on 11 June 2016

A new All Blacks era begins in earnest against Wales in Auckland on Saturday, after the exodus of six stalwarts following last year's successful World Cup campaign.

Steve Hansen speaks to media ahead of this weekends match against Wales. 9 June 2016.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

A new All Blacks era begins in earnest against Wales in Auckland on Saturday, with the rugby world taking a keen interest in how the team handles the exodus of six stalwarts following last year's successful World Cup campaign.

In reality, coach Steve Hansen's meticulous succession planning during the previous World Cup cycle should ensure the team barely miss a beat, despite the international retirements of the likes of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

Hansen named what is essentially his strongest side for the clash with Warren Gatland's side at Eden Park, which kicks off at 1935 (0735 GMT), with a plethora of talent groomed in the last four years now stepping out of the shadows.

Such is the depth available to Hansen, his only changes to the pack who started the World Cup final at Twickenham last October have been enforced through McCaw's retirement and Sam Whitelock's injured hamstring.

His only true concern could be in midfield, where the new centre pairing of Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa face the experienced Welsh combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

The All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa.

The All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Davies, however, said the Welsh duo were not expecting a falloff in standards set by Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu for the best part of a decade in the All Blacks jersey.

"(Nonu) and Conrad Smith were a great partnership, probably the best I've seen in my time, and what they achieved was pretty special," Davies told reporters in Auckland. "But we know that whoever steps into their jerseys now will be just as good.

SEVERAL STREAKS

"We have to make sure that when we get the ball we are accurate and we use it effectively. You don't get many opportunities playing against the All Blacks and when they come you've got to take them."

Hansen has challenged his side to begin the 2019 World Cup cycle by taking their game to a new level, which will be keenly watched by observers, though the team also have three unbeaten streaks to continue and a milestone to achieve on Saturday.

The All Blacks have not lost to Wales since 1953, at Eden Park since 1994, a run of 35 tests, or lost anywhere in New Zealand since 2009, a streak of 38 matches.

A win on Saturday would also give Hansen his 50th victory in 55 tests since he took over as head coach following the 2011 World Cup, though he was taking nothing for granted.

"They see us as the team they want to beat," Hansen said on Thursday. "There's enough history being written about how long it's been and it's going to happen one day.

"This is a really good Welsh side and it could happen this weekend if we don't turn up and play as well as we can and I think then we'd really see them singing in the valleys."

-Reuters

Where: Eden Park, Auckland (50,000 capacity)

When: June 11, 7:35 p.m. (0735 GMT)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Assistants: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Will Houston (Australia)

NEW ZEALAND

Coach: Steve Hansen

Captain: Kieran Read

World Rugby ranking: 1

Team: 15-Ben Smith, 14-Waisake Naholo, 13-Malakai Fekitoa, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Aaron Cruden, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Brodie Retallick, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody

Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Patrick Tuipulotu, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Seta Tamanivalu

WALES

Coach: Warren Gatland

Captain: Sam Warburton

World Rugby ranking: 6

Team: 15-Liam Williams, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-Hallam Amos, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Sam Warburton (captain), 6-Ross Moriarty 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Samson Lee, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: 16-Scott Baldwin, 17-Rob Evans, 18-Tomas Francis, 19-Jake Ball, 20-Ellis Jenkins, 21-Gareth Davies, 22-Gareth Anscombe, 23-Scott Williams

OVERALL RECORD

Played: 30

New Zealand wins: 27

Wales wins: 3

IN AUCKLAND

1969 New Zealand 33 Wales 12

1988 New Zealand 54 Wales 9

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

2014 Wales 16 New Zealand 34 Cardiff

2012 Wales 10 New Zealand 33 Cardiff

2010 Wales 25 New Zealand 37 Cardiff

2010 New Zealand 29 Wales 10 Hamilton

2010 New Zealand 42 Wales 9 Dunedin

REMAINING FIXTURES

June 14 Waikato Chiefs v Wales, Hamilton

June 18 New Zealand v Wales, second test, Wellington

June 25 New Zealand v Wales, third test, Dunedin