Cardiff - Warren Gatland renews Lions rivalry with the All
Blacks when he comes face-to-face with Steve Hansen as Wales host New Zealand
on Saturday and bid to buck a 29-match losing streak dating back to 1953.
That 13-8 victory in Cardiff is long forgotten for most
Welsh fans, one of just three wins in 33 match-ups.
Gatland, who led the British and Irish Lions to a 1-1 series
draw against the All Blacks in the summer, enjoys an unenviable record of just
three victories over the Southern Hemisphere trio also including Australia and
South Africa in 35 matches.
Since taking charge ahead of the 2008 Six Nations, Gatland
has not managed to lead Wales to victory over the trio on foreign soil in five
trips south and in 15 matches.
Against the All Blacks, Wales have shipped 344 points and 39
tries while scoring 140 points and crossing the whitewash just 10 times in as
Gatland came under intense criticism as Lions coach,
pilloried and mocked by the Kiwi press and portrayed as Hansen's bitter rival.
But the Kiwi, a former Waikato hooker never capped by the
All Blacks, said he was looking forward to having a post-match drink with
Hansen, himself an ex-Wales coach between 2002-4 before taking over the reins
in his homeland from Graham Henry.
"People try to make a lot of stuff about myself and
Steve, but I'd like to think there're no issues," Gatland said.
"I've got a huge amount of respect for what he's
achieved in the game and the success he's had as an All Blacks coach has been
Hansen chimed in: "We drew the series in NZ and we had
a drink there. Win or lose, we'll always have a drink, it's what rugby's
But the Kiwi played down any significance being played in
his team's historical record over Wales.
"History is a little bit like a drought," he said.
"Every day you are one (day) closer to it raining, so
every year they will be one closer to winning" against the All Blacks.
"For us, we don't talk about winning and losing, we
talk about preparing and having a process that allows us to go out and play well
or the best we can."
New Zealand suffered a blow when captain and No 8 Kieran
Read was ruled out with a back injury.
Read's place will be taken by Luke Whitelock, with his
brother Samuel skippering the side from lock. The pressure will be on the siblings:
their grandfather George Nelson Dalzell was a member of the All Blacks side
that lost back in 1953.
In other changes, Patrick Tuipulotu is named ahead of Luke
Romano in the second row while Liam Squire will start at blindside flank, lock
Scott Barrett coming onto the bench.
Lock Alun Wyn Jones returns to lead the Welsh side, the
Ospreys player part of an unchanged pack from November's opening 29-21 defeat
Injuries to Lions Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies sees
Hallam Amos and Scott Williams in the starting XV.
But Gatland warned his side would not be going into the game
with perhaps the usual trepidation following the Lions tour.
"Having played against a number of those players on a
regular basis, you just feel a bit more comfortable," he said.
That said, New Zealand have scored 468 points in Test
matches this year, averaging 36 per game, and notched up 62 tries.
The boundaries of Wales' fear factor may have shifted, but
the home side will have to be at their finest to resist the black tide.
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scot Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Substitutes: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane; 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown