Wales hopes to exploit new-look All Blacks in test series
Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland said his team could have a rare opportunity to capture its first test match against New Zealand in 63 years later this month as it will be taking on a new-look All-Blacks team playing its first series with fresh combinations after the retirement of some of its biggest stars.
New Zealand-born Gatland told a news conference Friday that the coming series would 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."
The All Blacks have named a 32-man squad for the series which includes six new caps, several of whom are likely to win test debuts this month. The retirements of Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu mean New Zealand will have a new-look midfield and the loss of captain Richie McCaw after a world record 148 test caps costs the team both leadership and experience.
"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," Gatland said. "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."
Wales is coming off a heavy loss to an under-strength England team last weekend, however, which suggests the team still lacks the depth, strength and ability to seriously challenge New Zealand. Wales' record under Gatland against Southern Hemisphere teams is also poor.
Gatland acknowledged that even a fresh-faced New Zealand team doesn't have any real weaknesses.
"There is definitely real quality there. There isn't going to be weakness, there is 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."