Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Two more All Blacks tests must feel like eternity for Wales

Ben Smith making a break during the Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Smith making a break during the Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

Back in 2010 when the idea of using the June window to play three tests against one nation was being floated, Wales didn't fancy the idea of doing that in New Zealand.

It would be okay to go to Australia and play three tests. They would have a fighting chance there and so it proved. With a bit of luck and a touch more composure, they could have won the series in 2012. After losing the first test 27-19, they were edged out of the second 25-23 and the third 20-19.

But there was less confidence they had the depth of personnel to stay so competitive playing three tests back-to-back in New Zealand.

They held out initially, but eventually agreed several years back that they would come out in 2016 and have a crack at playing three.

A year after a World Cup was potentially a good time to play them. History had shown that it was usual for the All Blacks to lose a handful of key, experienced men after World Cups and maybe Wales could catch them in rebuilding mode.

Their intuition was good. The All Blacks did lose a handful of key players after the 2015 tournament and yes, Wales were right to be wary of playing three consecutive tests in New Zealand.

There is no All Blacks rebuilding phase and Wales, having thrown the kitchen sink in Auckland, don't appear to have any obviously attractive tactical options open to them now.

They have got to find a way through another 160 minutes of rugby in New Zealand and right now, that must feel like an eternity for them.

Since Steve Hansen took over as coach, the All Blacks ave averaged 33 points a game. There's no secret here - teams that want to beat the All Blacks have to score tries.

But Wales look tired and they know they don't have 80 minutes of high tempo rugby in them. They are also missing their best weapon from last week, George North, and without him, Liam Williams sits as the lone ball-carrying threat unless Jamie Roberts can get some variation into his angles.

What will no doubt be playing on Wales coach Warren Gatland's mind is that if they run hard and wilt as they did last week, the final quarter could be one to forget.

They also know the All Blacks will be better defensively and that they love teams taking them on - it opens the prospect of counter attacking off turnovers.

Running the All Blacks off their feet doesn't seem likely. It's never going to work for Wales - not to the extent that they need it to. But a more conservative approach where they kick plenty doesn't give them much hope either.

Ben Smith and Israel Dagg are among the best in the world game at taking high balls and if they target Waisake Naholo, which they probably will, they may be disappointed at how well he copes.

The risks of kicking too much to the All Blacks back three outweigh the potential rewards - because as Wales discovered last week, anything over hit can be run back to deadly effect.

- NZ Herald

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