Christian Cullen: Visitors prey for new team

5 comments
Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks during a New Zealand All Blacks training session. Photo / Getty Images
Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks during a New Zealand All Blacks training session. Photo / Getty Images

I think the All Blacks will put at least 15 or 20 points on Wales next weekend.

I watched Wales play England last weekend but didn't see a lot in there that will trouble this All Blacks side. They certainly have some big boys - highlighted by 110kg wing George North - but it means they are pretty one-dimensional in their use of one-off runners. To me, they looked to be missing guys who can break the game open, like a Shane Williams.

Admittedly, my impression is based largely on one performance and they will improve on tour. They will also lift because of the opposition.

But the size of the Welsh won't intimidate the All Blacks. They have a few big boys of their own and play bulky players every week in Super Rugby.

It's often said the All Blacks are more vulnerable in their opening test of the year because it takes time to get the team playing in the right way.

But I don't see it this year. There's no doubt the All Blacks will miss players like Richie McCaw, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Dan Carter but I actually think it's the fact they aren't there that they will perform right from the outset this year.

It is an All Blacks squad picked on form and the new guys will be so eager to impress and prove they belong they will go well.

I can't see Wales living with the tempo the All Blacks will play at, which is a lot different to what they are used to playing up north, not to mention the skill level and intensity. They're going to be too quick and too clever.

Sam Cane said this week we won't really know how much we are going to miss all the old All Blacks until they are under the pump with five minutes to go. That was when those players were at their best, when they made good decisions under pressure, and why the All Blacks got through a few tight scrapes.

It will come at some stage but I see the games against Australia and South Africa as more difficult assignments.

Even so, I still don't see the All Blacks as being vulnerable. The level the guys have been playing at in Super Rugby this year has been impressive.

The 'newbies' also bring plenty of experience. Cane has played 30 tests, Aaron Cruden 37 and even the new-look midfield has experienced duo Malikai Fekitoa (13) and Ryan Crotty (15).

And if they didn't have enough to overcome, Wales haven't beaten the All Blacks since 1953. Maybe they are confident that will change on this tour, and it will be added motivation, but it has to play on their mind. Coach Steve Hansen is a pretty clever guy. He will have a few things up his sleeve but I can't see any major changes to the way the All Blacks have been playing, especially in the first couple of tests with so many new players to assimilate. And it will be too much for Wales.

- Herald on Sunday

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