Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Wales promised some calm for likely storm

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick in action against Wales during the first test match between the All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick in action against Wales during the first test match between the All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Weather in Wellington. It's usually part of the rugby package when the All Blacks hit town.

Today's forecast is for moderate temperatures, fine spells and a few showers - midwinter conditions which those who live in the capital describe as tranquil and perfect for the oval ball international at the Cake Tin.

Those predictions will not generate Welsh optimism they can improve on their Eden Park offering while the All Blacks want a fast dry track.

It will be more comfortable than the match conditions and salty aftermath in 2003 when England, down to 13 men at one stage, delivered a 15-13 victory against the All Blacks.

Three All Blacks made their debut in the difficult wind and rain. Joe Rokocoko, Mils Muliaina and Ma'a Nonu ran out at the start of their illustrious careers on a night when Carlos Spencer struggled to find three successes from seven kicks at goal.

At least the surface held up much better than the Wallabies in 1996 when test rugby was still played at Athletic Park. Before the test the visitors huddled together in the old grandstand staring out at the same wild weather they were to encounter the next day. The All Blacks made light of the muck and filth and blitzed their rivals 43-6 in an emphatic display of rugby basics.

Even further back, in 1961, when 130km/h winds were battering the old ground, All Black fullback Don Clarke kicked a remarkable sideline conversion of Kel Tremain's try to beat France. Clarke aimed his successful kick along the 22m line and let the ferocious southerly do the rest.

If the weather turns rough tonight Wales might fancy their chances with a set-piece, kick, chase, pressure plan. That makes sense but the All Blacks tend to wriggle free of those restraints.

There is more uncertainty about whether the Wallabies and England will escape different restrictions tonight in Melbourne. Turf at the multi-sport ground has been a regular problem and peeled back in large clumps when the Rebels hosted Super rugby games.

England want to scrum tonight. They've won that initial contest and forced coach Michael Cheika to change both props for a test the Wallabies have to win to send the series to a decider.

Much of the surface has been replaced but concerns expressed by Sanzar, the ARU, the Rebels and RUPA not long ago are ready to return with some vengeance if the turf disintegrates tonight.

- 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.

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