James Mortimer 21.Nov.2012Getty Images
The highs of the Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations seem a distant memory.
The omens were not good when Gatland injured himself in an innocent accident at his home in Waikato, which then resulted in Rob Howley taking over as interim coach.
The Wallabies inflicted a series whitewash on the proud rugby nation, and then Argentina and Samoa have mugged the Welsh in their own backyard, which has prompted former legends and European media to mull over the demise of their “once great team”.
The All Blacks have seen such situations before in their opponents, and will be wary that often their greatest threat isn’t a team cruising along in sound form, but a wounded side that will know that all demons will be laid to rest if they are able to claim the scalp of the World Champions.
The Welsh, like the All Blacks, seem unable to put a finger on Wales malaise, but All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster felt that it was perhaps as simple as preparation.
If this was the case, then Gatland, a renowned motivator and direct talker, could give the Six Nations champions the tonic they need to break a five match losing slump.
Foster said it showed no matter how strong a team was, the planning leading into the weekend was the crucial ingredient.
“All that has done (for us) is highlighted that it is a game you have to turn up prepared for week in week out,” Foster said.
Hansen so far this year has talked about the recipe, and one consistent this season for the All Blacks has been their work behind the scenes, with everything from special hydration kits while flying to careful squad management and player opportunity – the World Champions have been playing alchemist quite successfully to get the mix right.
“Quite frankly we have talked about us building through this tour for us and making sure that we prepare well because if you don't prepare well,” Foster said.
“If you don't do Sunday to Friday well, then you can get bitten on Saturday.”