10 Jun 2016

Do Wales have a popsicle's chance in hell?

11:57 am on 10 June 2016

ANALYSIS: Wales haven't won a test against the All Blacks for 63 years, and that wretched run looks set to continue at Eden Park tomorrow night.

Ardie Savea is set to make his All Blacks debut this weekend.

Ardie Savea is set to make his All Blacks debut this weekend. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The All Blacks team for their first test of 2016 was named yesterday, and two debutants are the only fresh faces in the side.

Coach Steve Hansen is refusing to take any risks as the All Blacks look to continue one of sport's most impressive unbeaten streaks.

He said now was not the time to experiment.

"They see us as the team they want to beat. There's enough history written about how long it's been (since Wales beat the All Blacks) 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 then you'd really see them singing in the valleys."

The uncapped players in the side are loose forward Ardie Savea and centre Seta Taminivalu, who have both been picked on the bench.

While Savea was always headed straight for the match-day 23, Taminivalu's blooding has come a little earlier than expected.

Hansen said with Charlie Ngatai out injured, there were not really any other options, although he was backing rookie centre Taminivalu to grow into an international star.

"Seta's a long term project and he's impressed us in training. He's a quick learner and he's a good athlete and he's got a bit of size about him too. I think the bigger the occasion, the better he'll go. That's my gut feeling, so we'll wait and see what happens."

Taminivalu backs up Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa, who get first crack in the midfield spots.

The All Blacks second-five Ryan Crotty.

The All Blacks second-five Ryan Crotty. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The pair have never started together and Crotty conceded they faced a stern test tomorrow night, squaring off against the sizeable Welsh duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, who boast more than 100 caps between them.

Jamie Roberts with fellow Wales players

Jamie Roberts will be competition. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"There's been a lot of tackles put in so far this week (at training) and I'm sure there might be a bit more tackle practice this afternoon. They're experienced, quality, test match-proven players so hopefully we'll be able to do the job.

Crotty admitted his combination with Fekitoa was still developing. He believed communication on attack and defence would be key to their performance against their battle-hardened opposites.

"It's just time training together, especially defensively, getting that combination going. So just getting clear on that and getting that combination nice and clear."

Aaron Cruden has been given the nod to take over from World Cup winner Dan Carter at first-five, beating out the challenge of Beauden Barrett, who will cover No.10 and fullback from the bench.

Aaron Cruden gets first shot at first-five.

Aaron Cruden gets first shot at first-five. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Cruden has not played for the All Blacks in 19 months, and was tasked with guiding the team in the post-Carter era.

"I'm not trying to be Dan Carter, I'm just trying to be Aaron Cruden. And yeah, I guess I get the first opportunity this week to wear that No.10 jersey, so it's been 19 months since my last test, so I'm really looking forward to this one."

Wales were bullish about their chances, with coach Warren Gatland declaring they were not here to aid the All Blacks rebuilding phase.

"I'd say that their policy will be trying to win the first two tests and then throw the youngsters in for the third match. We're not going to roll over and make that easy for them or allow that to happen. We're really excited about Saturday and we're going to go out there and do that Welsh jersey proud."

But the reality is much tougher.

The last time Wales beat the All Blacks was in 1953, the year Sir Edmund Hillary first climbed Mt Everest.

Since then they've played New Zealand 26 times and lost every match.

Add to that the fact the All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park to anyone in almost 22 years, and Wales odds of winning look as slim as ever.

-RNZ

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