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Confident Webb ready for All Blacks

There is no danger that Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb will disappear in a fog of insecurity or uncertainty as he prepares to make his first Test match start against world champions New Zealand.

But it is a sense of confidence, not arrogance, that accompanies Webb when he offers an assessment about what Wales can expect at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

"They are a world-class team, top of the rankings at the moment, but I think they are to be taken as well," the Ospreys number nine said.

"It excites me, really. You want to test yourself against the best teams in the world.

"I've been given the chance this weekend, and it's a dream come true after so many years of watching the All Blacks on the television and basically just admiring the way they play and the philosophy they have in their camp of winning games.

"They are a special team, and to be given the chance to play against them this weekend is something I am really looking forward to."

And if Webb is able to play a part in orchestrating Wales' first victory over New Zealand since 1953 and end a dismal run of 25 successive defeats against them, then a former All Blacks favourite will have been partially responsible.

Justin Marshall enjoyed a stellar 10-year Test career, winning 81 caps and establishing himself as arguably the world's top scrum-half.

After calling time on his international career in 2005, Marshall spent two seasons with the Ospreys, where Webb recalls a "very special" learning experience.

"It was just the way he controlled the game, and his running ability as well," Webb added. "It was not all about passing, passing, passing, but the way he liked to take on defenders.

"Obviously, closing out games and shouting out games, he was really good at, slowing it down at vital times and keeping an eye on the scoreboard and clock, and how he managed the boys around him."

Webb, 25, delivered a try-scoring display when Wales opened their autumn campaign by losing narrowly to Australia earlier this month and, after being ruled out of contention against Fiji last weekend due to a minor neck complaint, he has again been selected above 89 times-capped Mike Phillips.

And such recognition by Wales head coach Warren Gatland underlines what an outstanding campaign Webb has enjoyed for the Ospreys, the unbeaten Guinness PRO12 leaders, specifically in tandem with his half-back partner Dan Biggar for region and country.

"I am just grateful to get another opportunity to wear the number nine shirt this weekend," Webb added.

"I know when you play in that jersey it's not permanent. You need to put on a real performance to keep hold of that jersey, but it means a lot to wear it this weekend against one of the best sides in the world.

"I've been enjoying my rugby this year, so I think that has helped in selection as well.

"With Dan, we know each other inside out, really. As a nine, you need to know where the 10 is at all times, and he's obviously really vocal as well, which helps the nine. He doesn't shut up, but that's good for a nine, for directing forwards around us.

"He is a really confident player as well. He's full of confidence at the moment, which is good for Wales."

The statistics are overwhelmingly stacked against Wales, b ut a starting line-up containing 10 British and Irish Lions Test players undoubtedly has enough ability to seriously test the All Blacks.

"You have got to be physical with them (New Zealand)," Webb said.

"I think if we can play our game-plan and not take a backward step and really get into them, I think we can put on a good show.

"We came in on Monday, had a tough debrief after the Fiji game (Wales laboured to a 17-13 win), but we got over it sharpish and we know we're better than that. Hopefully, you will see that this weekend."

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