Three key questions: Are Wales going to get thumped?

Waisake Naholo of New Zealand looks on during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.
Waisake Naholo of New Zealand looks on during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.

Herald rugby experts Gregor Paul, Patrick McKendry and Wynne Gray answer three key questions ahead of the All Blacks' second test against Wales tonight.

1. There have been suggestions Wales could be thumped in this match, especially after the heavy defeat midweek to the Chiefs. What do you expect?

GP: It's going to be tough for Wales after playing midweek. They struggled in the last 20 in Auckland which doesn't bode well. If they can keep the pace down in the first half they might be in touching distance come the final quarter. But that's best case scenario - if the All Blacks go up a gear, should be a comfortable win.

PM: A thumping. The All Blacks should be sharper for their run last weekend, but Wales will be tired mentally and physically after two defeats in three days at the end of a long year for them.

WG: I expect Wales to be extra determined to play strongly after the midweek muddle. They will be more attuned to the demands after Eden Park however I expect the All Blacks to go up a notch as well and bag another victory.

2. How has the respective battle between the back three changed following injury to George North and the dropping of Julian Savea?

GP: The All Blacks reshuffle gives them more ability under the high ball -and they should be facing a few more of those. They lose explosive finishing without Savea but have plenty of attacking thrust in their mix. Wales on the other hand have lost their one genuine weapon and Liam Williams might not be as involved from the wing.

PM: The Wales' back three has become significantly weaker; the All Blacks' not so much. Look for Israel Dagg to turn defence into attack at the back, Ben Smith to do what he usually does, except on the wing; and for Waisake Naholo to make the most of his opportunities. For Wales, moving Liam Williams - a dangerous line-breaker at Eden Park - from fullback to the wing might dilute his effectiveness.

WG: George North was a massive threat for Wales and Liam Williams will not bring the same physical menace in a change of roles while rookie fullback Rhys Patchell is a converted five eighths. Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg suggest even more combined clout without the disappointing Julian Savea.

3. What is the one area you expect to see the biggest improvement from the All Blacks.

GP: Speed and aggression of their defensive line and more urgency out wide to get to rucks and make tackles.

PM: The collision areas. I expect them to carry the ball harder and into gaps rather than into defenders. That will allow them to more easily get in behind the defence and therefore improve the quality of their breakdown ball.

WG: At the breakdown. They were off the pace early at Eden Park and improved. If they are on the money this time from the start, that will improve the All Blacks cohesion and ability to strike.

- NZ Herald

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