Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Why Welsh rivalry is one to savour

Patrick McKendry of APNZ lists five reasons why the All Blacks rivalry with Wales is one to savour.

1. Controversial beginnings
Perhaps the most damning statistic as far as the All Blacks v Wales rivalry goes is the fact the men in red haven't triumphed since 1953. Of the home nations, England have the best record against the All Blacks, with six victories compared with Wales' three. (Ireland and Scotland, the other home nations, have never beaten the All Blacks.) But one of the most controversial of all the encounters between New Zealand and the Welsh was the first - 1905, at Cardiff Arms Park, when the home side won 3-0. Except of course Bob Deans 'scored' his try which was never awarded. It was the start of a long and famous rivalry between two countries which, unusually, had rugby as their national game.

2. Welsh success
It's hard to believe now but the All Blacks once found Wales extremely hard to beat. The All Blacks lost their first three matches at the Arms Park in 1905, 1935 and 1953, although the New Zealanders did taste success in Swansea in 1924.

Once Wales were the only team in the world guaranteed to truly test the All Blacks.

3. Love of the game
The Welsh supporters are among the most passionate in the world and they have been lucky enough to have been able to express themselves in two of the best stadiums. While the Millennium Stadium pitch is often not quite up to scratch, its roof does wonders for the atmosphere which goes to a new level when fans sing Bread of Heaven. The old Arms Park, originally a cricket ground when stands first went up in the late 19th century, was one of the most famous rugby stadiums in the world.

4. Close calls
Wales have come close to beating the All Blacks since that famous day in December, 1953. Most recently, in 2004, the All Blacks, including current players Dan Carter, Piri Weepu, Richie McCaw, Ali Williams, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock, survived a massive scare to win by the narrowest of margins - 26-25. In the dying minutes and in front of a crowd of 74,000, Gareth Thomas missed a penalty which would have given his team a famous victory. A year earlier, in a World Cup pool match in Sydney, Wales, coached by Steve Hansen, pushed the All Blacks close before losing 53-37.

5. A school for All Blacks coaches
Both Hansen and his predecessor Graham Henry coached Wales, which assisted enormously in their development. Both were taken outside their comfort zones and had to negotiate their way around the labyrinthian politics of the game in Wales, which is dominated by clubs. Both went on to experience the trauma of the 2007 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France at the Millennium Stadium as All Blacks coaches, another extremely important lesson. And we all know how that World Cup story turned out.

- APNZ

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