Sportal.co.nz 23.Nov.2012Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Sunday November 25, 06:15 NZT.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 28 - New Zealand 25, Wales 3, Draws 0.
LAST TIME: November 27, 2010 (Cardiff) - 37-25 Wales.
WALKING WOUNDED: The lead-up to the game was notable for concerns over whether first five-eighths Dan Carter would play after a twinge in his leg at training on Thursday. New Zealand were also unable to consider hooker Keven Mealamu due to his calf injury, and utility backs Tamati Ellison (foot) and Beauden Barrett (ribs).It has been a bad start to the northern season for Wales, and even after naming their team to play the All Blacks, they lost wing George North. Missing earlier were prop adam Jones, lock Alun Wyn-Jones and flanker Dan Lydiate. Centre Jonathan Davies has recovered from a groin injury. However, hooker Richard Hibbard and first five-eighths Dan Biggar are out with shoulder injuries, lock Ian Evans has a knee injury.
FORM: Wales have been on a dreadful downer since the heady heights they reached at the World Cup in 2011. It all started, after their Six Nations success, on their tour to Australia. Five successive losses, and the absence of coach Warren Gatland due to his own injury worries, have all hit the confidence of the side. New Zealand have not had their A team on the field during the tour and depending on Carter's injury that might still not be possible. But the depth in the squad has been highlighted in their performances and the main question about the Test will be how quickly the side can gel to demonstrate their best qualities.
WHO'S HOT: Halfback Mike Phillips never seems to have a problem lifting himself against the All Blacks while second five-eighths Jamie Roberts has the ability to make an impact in midfield. Fullback Leigh Halfpenny has grown in stature in the side. In the pack flanker Sam Warburton is under pressure to find his best form while hooker Matthew Rees, flanker Ryan Jones and No.8 Toby Faletau are top-flight support players. Lock Luke Charteris will also be crucial to Wales gaining their own lineout ball. New Zealand, even in Carter's absence, have a notable replacement on standby in Aaron Cruden who showed some positive touches against Italy. But if Carter can play expect another top drawer display. Fullback Israel Dagg, and wings Cory Jane and Julian Savea, shape as big performers in this contest while in the pack the front five can expect an effort from Wales to unsettle them. In the loose the game could be tailor-made for Liam Messam's running game, but that will only occur should Richie McCaw and Kieran Read combine with him to dominate the loose.
WE THINK: The power in this contest is all with New Zealand. Wales have been talking a big game in the underdog stakes in the lead-up but no New Zealand team has ever been guilty of complacency against a Welsh side. Tradition does not allow it and McCaw's team are big on tradition. Steady set pieces could be the forerunner of a black tide running all over Millennium Stadium.
Wales 1.Paul James, 2.Matthew Rees, 3.Aaron Jarvis, 4.Bradley Davies, 5.Luke Charteris, 6.Ryan Jones, 7.Sam Warburton, 8.Toby Faletau, 9.Mike Phillips, 10.Rhys Priestland, 11.Liam Williams, 12.Jamie Roberts, 13.Jonathan Davies, 14.Alex Cuthbert, 15.Leigh Halfpenny.
Reserves: 16.Ken Owens, 17.Gethin Jenkins, 18.Scott Andrews, 19.Aaron Shingler, 20.Justin Tipuric, 21.Tavis Knoyle, 22.James Hook, 23.Scott Williams
New Zealand 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Isread Dagg.
Reserves: 16.Dane Coles, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Brodie Retallick, 20.Victor Vito, 21.Piri Weepu, 22.Beauden Barrett, 23.Ben Smith.
REFEREE: Craig Joubert