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Wales coach Warren Gatland won't underestimate the All Blacks

Published 03/06/2016

Wales head coach Warren Gatland does not believe there is such a thing as a weak New Zealand side
Wales head coach Warren Gatland does not believe there is such a thing as a weak New Zealand side

Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes New Zealand will be just as fearsome despite the loss of their star men.

The All Blacks face Wales in their first Test series without legendary captain Richie McCaw and World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter for over a decade.

Centres Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith are also absent after their moves to France, forcing head coach Steve Hansen to freshen up his squad.

But Wales coach Gatland, who played 17 non-international matches for the All Blacks, reckons they are still a force to be reckoned with.

He said: "You could describe it as being pretty arrogant if I talk about weakness in an All Blacks team.

"Sometimes there are young, exciting, talented players coming through who are a little bit inexperienced.

"What you might say is weakness is players potentially on their way up, not as experienced as some other players who left.

"There is definitely real quality there. There isn't going to be weakness, there are going to be players who haven't had the same time together in the same combinations.

"If that's perceived as weakness take it how you like, but there is never any weak All Black team as far as I'm concerned."

Sonny Bill Williams committed his future to New Zealand rugby this week, but will not face Wales after choosing to play sevens at the Olympics.

Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty is now their most experienced centre with 15 caps, but Hansen could throw the uncapped Seta Tamanivalu into the back line.

The All Blacks started slowly against Georgia en route to winning last year's World Cup and Gatland is hoping Wales can catch New Zealand cold in the first test at Eden Park on June 11.

He said: "It's going to be tough, but we're not here just to make up the numbers, and we're not here to start the rebuilding phase of New Zealand rugby either.

"We've looked at when the All Blacks have been rusty and I've said to our players to have a look at the Georgia game at the 2015 World Cup in Cardiff.

"There were a lot of mistakes made and they were obviously ring-rusty. They got better as the tournament went along.

"We've just got to go out there and make sure we start well and play well and stay in the fight against them. We know how dangerous they are, but like every team when you put them under pressure hopefully there is some small hint of vulnerability."

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