Shaun Edwards: No margin for error against New Zealand
Shaun Edwards has warned his Welsh players there will be no margin for error against New Zealand in Auckland this weekend because they will be playing against the best sporting team in the world.
The world champions were named as World Team of the Year at the prestigious Laureus Awards in Berlin, beating off opposition from Barcelona FC, the Great Britain Davis Cup winning team, the Golden State Warriors basketball side, Mercedes F1 and the United States women's World Cup winning squad.
"We know going into this game that any errors will be capitalised on because we are playing against a team that is THE best team in the world, not just the best rugby team," said Edwards.
"For the All Blacks to be selected, a few weeks ago over in Europe, above Barcelona and above all the American teams is just fantastic. To get that recognition is marvellous and the All Blacks have done a great job in selling the game.
"To have a home record that shows they haven't lost in Auckland since 1994 and that the last time they lost anywhere at home was in 2009 is incredible. They are double world champions and they portray a good image for the game of rugby.
"When they come to the UK everybody knows who the All Blacks are and about the Haka. It's a great way to spread the rugby gospel around the world."
Wales kick-off their three-Test series against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night and Edwards is hoping that inspirational skipper Sam Warburton will be able to return after six weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
"Sam's shoulder is improving quite dramatically and I think he will be there or thereabouts. He has passed all the back to play protocols, but there is always an element of doubt until the physios clear him to play, so we will have to wait until the team is announced on Thursday," said Edwards.
"Sam is one of the few guys who could go into a game not having played for a few weeks and still be pretty sharp. He keeps himself very fit and he has been working hard on his conditioning, so we are hopeful he will be up for selection.
"You always want your captain to play, as well as your best players, and he is vital for us. But it's like everything else, if he doesn't make it there is a young bloke out there willing to put his hand up and give his 100 per cent."
Lock Sam Whitelock and scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow are both expected to miss the first All Blacks Test of the year. Whitelock is on light training duties due to a hamstring problem, while Kerr-Barlow is still recovering from a broken hand.
Hurricanes half-back TJ Perenara is all set to come onto the bench to provide back-up for Aaron Smith, while former World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick will have either Luke Romano or Patrick Tuipulotu alongside him in the second row.
Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai joined the team on Tuesday, but has been released again due to concussion issues. Ngatai's ongoing struggles have seen Blues utility back George Moala remain with the team.