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Davies hopes to impress on return


Centre Jonathan Davies has been recalled to the Wales team for Saturday's clash against New Zealand

Centre Jonathan Davies has been recalled to the Wales team for Saturday's clash against New Zealand

Centre Jonathan Davies has been recalled to the Wales team for Saturday's clash against New Zealand

Jonathan Davies hopes he can "deliver a p erformance" after recovering from injury to line up for Wales against world champions New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The 2013 British and Irish Lions Test centre has not played since being hurt during Clermont Auvergne's European Champions Cup victory over Sale Sharks more than three weeks ago.

But Wales head coach Warren Gatland has selected him at the earliest possible opportunity as a solitary change from the side beaten 33-28 by Australia earlier this month.

Davies has been reunited with his fellow Lion Jamie Roberts in midfield, while hooker Richard Hibbard also starts following his appearance for Gloucester last week that prompted Wales to seek clarity about his injury situation after they ruled him out of contention to face Fiji three days ago because of an ankle problem.

Elsewhere, post-Fiji, full-back Leigh Halfpenny has recovered from concussion to reclaim the number 15 shirt off Liam Williams, with fly-half Dan Biggar (groin) and scrum-half Rhys Webb (neck) also fit to resume action.

Up-front, Gatland parades the same pack that featured against Australia, which means Hibbard, prop Paul James, locks Jake Ball and Alun-Wyn Jones, plus captain Sam Warburton, all being recalled following a tame 17-13 victory over Fiji.

Prop Gethin Jenkins, who captained Wales against Fiji, has a hamstring strain and is not involved.

"I've worked really hard with the conditioners and physios to get fit, so hopefully I can deliver a performance," said Davies, who has been troubled by a muscle problem in his shoulder area.

"You work extremely hard here if you are injured. You don't want to get injured when you are in the Wales camp because you probably get flogged more than the fit boys.

"You want to put yourself up against the best and that is what is going to happen on Saturday.

"Ideally, I could have had a bit more game-time coming into it, but that's how the world goes. I have to make sure I work hard, know my roles and deliver what I have to."

Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 25 successive Tests, while they last defeated the All Blacks, South Africa or Australia six years ago, toppling the Wallabies 21-18 in Cardiff.

"We just have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure there is clarity on all fronts, in attack and in defence," Davies added.

"Going up against the best team in the world you need that, definitely. Obviously, it's going to be very tough, but if we can get a performance for the full 80 minutes and not lose concentration, we are confident we can get a result.

"They (New Zealand) have put England away and after making 13 changes still had the strength in depth to beat Scotland. They're the best team in the world, very comfortable on the ball and very intelligent.

"They play in the right areas, they retain the ball really well and, once they get it, they keep it. It's down to us this week that when we get it, we keep it for a long period of time and starve them of possession."

Wales, meanwhile, have released a number of players back to their regions or clubs for domestic action this weekend, including Scarlets pair Scott Williams and Rhys Priestland, who both started against Fiji, Wasps lock Bradley Davies and Ospreys forward James King.

And for New Zealander Gatland, who was born in Hamilton, played for Waikato and featured in a number of non-international games as an All Blacks hooker, Saturday's encounter is another red-letter occasion in his coaching career.

"I've said before I am a proud New Zealander and follow closely what's happening there with other sports," he said.

"If the All Blacks are playing someone else I'm cheering for them, but there is no-one more desperate to win at the weekend than me. I am totally focused on my role here and my dedication to Wales is 100 per cent.

"My family get asked that question a lot and my mother-in-law was asked who she would be supporting at the weekend. She said Wales because family come first.

"I've got a lot of friends and mates who want me to do well, so there's a lot of support for me from the people I know back in New Zealand.

"They (All Blacks) continue to put winning sequences together. They have that belief they are good enough to win in any situation and handle the threat of the opposition. That's what makes them the best team in the world.

"There is a lot of pressure on their players to perform and they know the expectation of the nation is on them."