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Neil Jenkins: we must all strive to catch up with All Blacks

By Andrew Baldock

Neil Jenkins has rallied world rugby's leading nations to attempt what seems a mission impossible - close the gap on New Zealand.

Jenkins, Wales' skills coach and his country's record Test match points-scorer, believes New Zealand are currently the world's top team in any sport.

And while the All Blacks do not feature on Wales' schedule this month, Wales face the three teams recently left in their wake during a one-sided Rugby Championship that saw New Zealand crowned winners by a landslide 17 points.

The All Blacks backed up last year's World Cup triumph and their long-standing No.1 global ranking by claiming six successive bonus-point victories.

Wales tackle Australia in Cardiff on Saturday, followed by successive weekend appointments with Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

The All Blacks claimed a 3-0 Test series triumph against Wales in June, and Jenkins said: "I thought we played pretty well in the first and second Tests against New Zealand and had opportunities in both games, to a point.

"They are ridiculous at this moment in time - easily the best team on the planet in any sport. Whenever they play a Test match, they seem to get the job done.

"My view is that's what the rest of us have to get to and try to overtake. They are incredibly good, and the standard for today's game.

"For Australia, South Africa, ourselves, France, Ireland, England, Scotland and the rest of the sides, it's a gap we have to close.

"We have to do a job against teams we are playing this autumn.

"It's a tough game on Saturday, but we are at home and we have a pretty good record at home."

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley is due to name his team for the Wallabies clash tomorrow.

Skipper Sam Warburton, who looks set to begin his comeback from injury for Cardiff Blues against Treviso in Italy later this week, is an absentee, together with lock Alun Wyn Jones.

Prop Gethin Jenkins is favourite to captain Wales, with full-back Liam Williams the biggest injury concern. Leigh Halfpenny, pencilled in for a wing slot, is expected to start at full-back if Williams does not recover in time.

Belfast Telegraph


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