Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Wales lack firepower to beat All Blacks

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Wales skipper Sam Warburton and coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Wales skipper Sam Warburton and coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Go on, suggest it with more than a skerrick of conviction, louder than a whisper perhaps.

Do you believe Wales have the firepower and mental conviction to beat the All Blacks and shred the cloak of failure which has draped every attempt to emulate the All Black conquerors in 1953?

Wales should have won several times but found ways to stumble against the All Blacks whose winning sequence has stretched to 26 since their 6-0 victory in Cardiff in 1963.

Wales have played the All Blacks seven times in New Zealand and lost the lot by a median score of 40-6.

They are coming off an average Six Nations campaign where they thrashed Italy, beat France and Scotland, drew with Ireland and lost to England. They were competitive in patches in a competition which stirred the coffers and emotions but did little to raise the rugby quality.

After the seductive enterprise and skills of the World Cup, the northern hemisphere rugby populace had to negotiate a slide in standards, weather and overall quality. Maybe it was a one-off as the previous series had some cracking contests.

Wales played with sporadic venom. Around the inventive Liam Williams, the physical thunder from George North and Jamie Roberts, spark from Rhys Webb, the reliable work from Talupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris and revamped frontrow, they spluttered.

Too often there was oil on the sparkplugs and an uncertain look about their ideas and cohesion.

Wales trip to Twickenham reflected their season. At halftime they trailed 16-0 then captain Sam Warburton was stretchered off and it was still 25-7 with a dozen minutes left before they unleashed some great running and England clung to a narrow 25-21 victory.

England dominated the first spell as Wales missed 19 tackles and conceded a slew of penalties and lineouts. Hints about a full-blown reversal did not occur until the last quarter when England used their subs bench and Wales hit the turbo.

If Wales are to find a note of history in New Zealand, they need to find that tempo to deliver a consistent inquisition of the All Blacks.

Splutter will not cut it because they will be punished by an All Black side with a luxury of selections despite a slab of famous men leaving the playing ranks last year. The test pack is intact except for Richie McCaw while the selectors have bags of experienced choices to guide into the backline vacancies.

The All Blacks have delivered an extraordinary run of results and performance since Steve Hansen took over at the start of 2012.

They began with a flourish against Ireland at Eden Park when Julian Savea scored three tries in a 42-10 victory then escaped in freezing weather in their next duel in Christchurch.

There was rust in 2013 in their start against France, lots of errors to begin against England in two close 2014 tests before an unconvincing beginning against Samoa to begin the last World Cup campaign.

Those spotty resumptions will give Wales heart but the All Blacks have not lost on home soil since 2009 in a run they have stretched out to 38 victories.

Since Hansen took over as head coach, the All Blacks have won 49 tests, lost twice and had two stalemates and that's not pretty reading for any rival, especially Wales.
.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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