All you need to know: All Blacks vs Wales

New All Blacks captain Kieran Read training with earlier this week. Photo / Getty Images
New All Blacks captain Kieran Read training with earlier this week. Photo / Getty Images

As the start of a new era of All Blacks rugby is about to get under way tonight at Eden Park, we've gathered up all the vital information you need to know ahead of the big match.

Eden Park, Auckland, 7;35pm kick-off

This will be the 31st meeting between the two nations on the international rugby stage, a rivalry that was first sparked 111 years ago at Cardiff Arms Park during the famous 1905-06 Originals Tour of the UK, France and North America.

On that 35-match tour, the 3-0 defeat to Wales was the only loss New Zealand suffered, and is one of only three defeats the All Blacks have had against Wales, with the last of those coming in 1953 in Cardiff.

63 years later, the All Blacks are on a 26 match winning streak against the Welsh, maintaining their unbeaten status at home in matches between the two sides.

This statistic is backed up by the fact that the All Blacks have not been beaten by any team at Eden Park since 1994, winning all of their 38 test matches played there in that time frame, meaning the men in black are red-hot favourites to extend their winning records both against Wales and at Eden Park.

Line-ups:

The first All Blacks side named since their World Cup triumph in October last year features a new permanent captain, as well as two players primed to make their debuts from the bench.

Kieran Read takes over the captaincy role on a full-time basis following the retirement of 148-test All Black Richie McCaw, who is one of many All Blacks such as Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Colin Slade, Ben Franks and Jeremy Thrush to have either retired or headed offshore to play club rugby in Europe since the All Blacks' World Cup success.

As a result of this exodus of talent and experience, the path has been cleared for flanker Ardie Savea and Fijian-born midfielder Seta Tamanivalu to make their test debuts for New Zealand.

Both received call-ups to the national squad after performing exceptionally well for the Hurricanes and Chiefs in the first 14 rounds of Super Rugby this season.

Wales have made five changes to their side that lost to England at Twickenham last week, with captain Sam Warburton returning from injury along with Gethin Jenkins, Ken Owens, Bradley Davies and Jonathan Davies.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones is in line to become Wales' fifth test centurion, while flanker Ellis Jenkins is set to make his international debut from the bench.

All Blacks: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Seta Tamanivalu.

Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Hallam Amos, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Ross Moriarty, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Samson Lee, Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins.

Reserves: Scott Baldwin, Rob Evans, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Ellis Jenkins, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Scott Williams.

Odds:

The TAB has the All Blacks as strong favourites to take out the first test, paying out at $1.05 for a Kiwi win, while an upset win for the Welsh is paying out at $8.50.

How to watch:

Sky TV will be showing the match live on Sky Sport 1 at 7:30pm, with pre-match coverage beginning at 6:30pm.

- NZ Herald

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