Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: All Blacks won't be underestimating Wales

The All Blacks have the historical edge but they won't be underestimating Wales. Photo / Getty
The All Blacks have the historical edge but they won't be underestimating Wales. Photo / Getty

It's easy to say the All Blacks should win every test against Wales. In terms of history and form, that is unequivocally the case.

However, what I know from playing Wales and the other Six Nations teams that haven't had much recent success against the All Blacks, is that it adds an edge. As an All Black, you're protecting and enhancing the jersey. When you have a three-test series, one off day can change the course of history.

There have been a few close ones recently, and one which immediately springs to mind is the second test between the All Blacks and Ireland in Christchurch in 2012 when Dan Carter's dropped goal won it for the home side.

The All Blacks will be aware that the Welsh have one major advantage over them and that is they have recently played a test against England. They have a settled team who know each other and mostly what it's like to play here.

They played very well at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and are well coached with world-class players, many of whom are Lions. There won't be a sense of the unknown. They have the ability to win a test, and we are already underestimating them.

The All Blacks won't be though. They will recognise the threat. The other thing that sticks out is that the All Blacks are in a transition period. I wrote last week about how refreshing it is to see established All Blacks playing great rugby at the moment. Helping that was their extended break after the World Cup, when they would have been able to take in more Super Rugby training volume and game messages than ever. That has resulted in just about every one of them playing well.

But the All Blacks don't play like the Highlanders or Crusaders. They have their own structures and ethos. That's a whole lot of information to take on board and it can be quite heavy.

There are new faces and a new captain, but also coaches who want the game plan to evolve. The one thing the All Blacks have done since the last two World Cups more than any other nation is to evolve to stay ahead of the pack. They constantly change their plans. And that's one thing I haven't seen Wales do. The All Blacks will get a fair idea of what Wales will bring by watching replays of their recent test at Twickenham or the Six Nations. Wales will play to their strengths, but the All Blacks won't necessarily play like they did at the World Cup.

It's going to be a fascinating series and all eyes should be on Eden Park next Saturday because Warren Gatland will see the first test as their golden opportunity at making history.

They will put everything they have into winning that test. After that, the All Blacks will be a different beast, with combinations and synergies in working order. Don't get me wrong, the All Blacks will be pumped, but they will also be trying to find their rhythm and that's where Wales have an advantage.

- NZ Herald

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