11 Jun 2016

Welsh fans hold out for Test of faith

5:58 pm on 11 June 2016

History might be against Wales as they line up against the All Blacks at Eden Park tonight, the spirits of a large expat contingent think this could be their year.

Wales captain Sam Warburton shows the Welsh spirit as he is stretchered away during a match against England in March.

Wales captain Sam Warburton shows the Welsh spirit as he is stretchered away during a match against England in March. Photo: AFP

Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since a 13-8 victory in Cardiff in 1953, despite a few near-misses along the years.

Barrie-John Partridge, president of the Auckland Welsh Club, said he was expecting about 200 Welsh supporters to head down to the Eden Rugby Club for some pre-game drinks, and then on to the game later on.

"There's a lot of singing, a good amount of drinking, generally fun", Mr. Partridge said.

"It's something you don't get very often in New Zealand - it's pretty special, really".

Mr Partridge emigrated to New Zealand in 1986, but remains fiercely devoted to his home side - inspired in part by his late father, Barrie-David.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"A deal that him and I had was that, when he died, I would take him to different sporting stadiums."

"He died three months before the World Cup (in 2011) so I decided to take his ashes with me to all the matches I went to in the World Cup."

Auckland resident and fellow Welshman Meredydd Barr was upbeat about the visitors' chances.

"We are very optimistic - New Zealand has had many changes and a lot of players have left ... we feel that we can win this game tonight," he said.

"I'm picking that Wales will win by 34-12".

Barrie-John Partridge was more tempered, plumping for a Wales win by 25-18.

Mr Partridge said rugby was hugely important to the Welsh psyche.

"[Rugby] is of vital importance to the nation," he said.

"Everyone you talk to knows the team - even 80-year-old grandmothers who you talk to on the street would know what's happening."

"How we value ourselves as a nation, very often, is how our rugby team does."

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