Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Smith expects tough test from Wales

New Zealand's Conrad Smith knows Wales will provide a challenging encounter on Saturday

All Blacks star Conrad Smith expects to encounter a Wales team laden with "steely resolve" at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Wales' rugby failures against New Zealand are well-chronicled - 24 successive defeats since a 13-8 triumph in Cardiff 59 years ago. Painful losses at home to Argentina and Samoa this month, plus a long injury list that includes star forwards like Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Alun-Wyn Jones, has served to exacerbate their task this weekend.

But Smith said: "We would all much rather they won their last two games. Whether it is at domestic or Test level, we've all been in teams that don't get the results you want. It creates a steely resolve, and they (Wales) will play well - I know they will. We've just got to make sure we play better."

Smith has featured in five winning All Blacks teams against Wales - on four of those occasions at the Millennium Stadium - and he is well aware of the history surrounding the countries' 107-year rivalry.

"That brings with it challenges," he added, reflecting on New Zealand's long unbroken run of success at Wales' expense. "As All Blacks, we learn to pride ourselves on it and use it to motivate ourselves.

"We try to use it as motivation, and that has stood us in good stead in recent years. We try and take that out of it and look at how we want to play. Every week is an opportunity to add to the legacy of the All Blacks."

If Wales are to have any chance of getting close, then negating Smith's prodigious midfield partnership with powerhouse Ma'a Nonu will be high on their agenda.

The pair last week set a world record for a Test centre pairing of 35 international wins - England's Will Carling and Jeremy Guscott were the previous holders - when New Zealand brushed aside Italy in Rome.

"Our combination comes from instinct," Smith added. "And over time we've grown a really good relationship without actively knowing it. "We chat a lot on the field and during the week about things we want to get out of the game, strengths and weaknesses in the opposition.

"And outside of all that, there's a lot of instinctive stuff. He knows what I'm going to do, and I know what he's going to do in certain situations."