Set the alarm for Cardiff showdown - no love lost between the coaches.

If France, Scotland, the Barbarians or French XV did not grab attention during this northern tour, surely Wales, Warren Gatland and the intriguing final test of the year is inspiration to set the alarm.

Rugby is ultimately decided by those on the pitch but through selections and tactics, coaches play a huge role. And it is here some of the subplot is well worn.

Despite statements to the contrary this week in Cardiff, there is no love lost between All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Gatland.

A different set of circumstances and group of players awaits a full-house at Principality Stadium, one of rugby's great venues which delivers a magic atmosphere. The Land Of My Fathers anthem alone sends shivers down the spine.


But after the drawn, deflating Lions series, these staunch Kiwi coaches are locked 1-1-1 in 2017. A tiebreaker this is not, but it must mean something for two men who hate giving an inch.

The pair briefly met at a mid-week testimonial dinner for Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones. It's fair to assume words exchanged were more polite than overly warm.

"We shook hands and said hello. I wouldn't say it was a knees-up or anything but we did say hello, yeah," Hansen said. "We drew the series in New Zealand and we had a drink there so win or lose we will always have a drink that's part of what rugby is about."

Even with his Lions success it's difficult not to think Gatland, with his unspecified threat against the All Blacks in his book, may have dented his chances of coaching in New Zealand again.

Gatland's demeanour this week has been varied. From defensive and appearing under pressure to, three days later, attempting to portray confidence by stating the All Blacks are not feared any more.

"The fact some of these players have played them on a regular basis there's not that trepidation. Familiarity gives you more confidence," Gatland said. "These guys seem calm and not so nervous and uptight as they may have been in the past."

There was a time many in the north believed the second-string All Blacks would beat their best. With captain Kieran Read out and seven other regulars missing, and cohesion down, we may find out whether that still holds true.

"While it's disappointing to lose your leader and a guy that's played 100-odd test matches you can't do anything about it so there's no point me sitting here getting all emotional about it," Hansen said.

"This is a team we've got a lot of faith in so they've got to go out and do the job."

These sentiments are familiar. Throughout this torrid, testing season Hansen has, comparatively, remained calm. You never see him fly off the handle like Eddie Jones or Michael Cheika in the coaching box.

Still, there is no hiding from the fact the past 12 months have not gone to script.

From Ireland's historic victory in Chicago last year, through the Lions series, and a loss to Australia, the All Blacks have shown frailties.

A timely reminder of their dominance would not go astray.

Wales, attempting to adopt a new expansive style, won't die wondering though.

Softly-spoken No8 Taulupe Faletau and skipper Wyn Jones spoke of the confidence they took from beating the 14-man All Blacks with the Lions, and how they have tried to pass that onto the Welsh squad seeking their first win over New Zealand since 1953.

"It's going to happen sometime. I can't see Wales never winning against New Zealand ever again," Faletau said. "Hopefully this weekend. It would be great to go down in history but it is what we do after that."

Gatland wasn't silly enough to buy into suggestions the All Blacks, desperately missing Brodie Retallick and Ben Smith in particular, are vulnerable.

But, after 10 losses to the All Blacks in his time alone, he did dream a little.

"It's that moral victory; the victory of once you've done it once it can become a bit more repetitive.

"We've got a chance to play the best team in the world and if you can't get up for that then you shouldn't be on the pitch. I think the players realise what a big game it is."

It's impossible to grade the All Blacks before this final test. This should give us a true gauge of how much many of these fringe players have absorbed.

Through regular rest and rotation, management have targeted this final game and, while many are missing, those who will front the roar of 75,000 and a passionate Welsh team appear up for it.

After a challenging and frustrating season by All Blacks' standards, finishing with a performance that points to the positives of genuine growth is a must.

Put the kettle on; get the bacon and eggs ready. This one is worth watching.