London - Wales great Neil Jenkins believes New Zealand are
now the world's best side in any sport.
The world champion All Blacks are currently on a record run
for a major rugby union nation of 18 successive Test wins, a sequence they will
look to extend when they face Ireland in Chicago on Saturday.
In June, New Zealand secured a 3-0 series win at home to
Wales and went on to dominate the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
Jenkins, Wales' record points-scorer and now their skills
coach, said on Tuesday: "I thought we played pretty well in the first and
second Tests against New Zealand and had opportunities in both games, to a
"But it is just how good they are," added Jenkins.
"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."
Wales, who have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, will be
spared a fresh encounter with the All Blacks during a round of end-of-year
internationals which starts for them at home to Australia on Saturday before
Argentina, Japan and South Africa all visit Cardiff.
But somehow knocking New Zealand off their perch remains the
goal for Jenkins.
"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
"For Australia, South Africa, ourselves, France,
Ireland, England, Scotland and the rest of the sides, it's a gap we have to
Someone looking to do just that is Warren Gatland, who has
left his 'day job' as Wales head coach to concentrate on his role in charge of
the British and Irish Lions side who will tour his native New Zealand next
The Kiwi coach guided the Lions - a side featuring the best
players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales - to a series win in
Australia three years ago.
But the All Blacks are likely to prove far sterner opponents
than the Wallabies, with the Lions having won just one Test series in New
Zealand in their history, back in 1971.
Gatland said on Tuesday he was looking to add an extra
attack coach to his backroom staff, a move which could open up a role for Rob
Howley - his 'stand-in' as Wales coach and himself a former Wales and Lions
"When you are on tour, you are sometimes preparing two
teams (a midweek and a Test side) and there are lots of times from a coaching
perspective where we are training twice a day," Gatland explained.
"You are constant and I want to be able to give them a
day off sometimes or take a bit of a break."
Gatland added he wanted to cap playing squad numbers at
around a maximum of 40.
"I have kind of got a number in my head," he said.
"I am thinking of a squad potentially between 38-40, maybe 39.
"Small enough to keep intimate but big enough to cover
for injuries without getting too unwieldy and big and out of hand."
The Lions' task has not been made any easier by a schedule
that sees them starting their tour against a New Zealand Provincial Union XV on
June 3 - just a week after the English Premiership and Celtic League finals
that are sure to feature many of Gatland's first-choice players.
"I have said all along that one of the challenges for
us is the lack of preparation time," explained Gatland.
"I think the games are great in New Zealand. The harder
the games the better it is.
"What's important is the preparation time in the lead-up
to those games so perhaps we will be looking for some continuity of players
that have been on previous tours and of the coaching team and the back-up
staff, with some new faces."