International Rugby: Wales v New Zealand Preview

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Warren Gatland's Wales square-off against Steve Hansen's New Zealand at the Principality Stadium on Saturday the 25th of November.


Wales will need to bounce back after a vastly underwhelming win over Georgia when they host the All Blacks at the Principality this Saturday. For a tier-one nation to have only managed to beat a lowly Georgia side by seven-points is shoddy, to say the least. The Dragons will need to be a whole lot better if they are to affect the shock of all shocks against New Zealand.

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Wales v New Zealand | Saturday 25 November | Principality Stadium | 19:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 6/1 | Draw 40/1 | New Zealand 1/12
Handicap
Wales (-18.5) 9/10 | New Zealand (+18.5) 9/10


Wales
Despite naming what can only be described as a second-string side last week, Warren Gatland would still have felt more than a little frustrated at his team's performance. The Kiwi coach has wielded the axe ahead of this weekend's Teat match though, with 12-changes having been made in all. While this is no doubt a very strong Welsh line-up, they will have to make do without the injured duo of Liam Williams and Alex Cuthbert, while Jonathan Davies also remains sidelined for a prolonged period. Those are three quality rugby players, and their presence amongst the backs will be sorely missed.

The All Blacks nearly succumbed to a valiant Scotland last time out, and this will no doubt have Gatland's men licking their lips; New Zealand are vulnerable, and the Welsh know it. If the hosts are to claim a first win over the ABs since 1953 however, they will need every one of their players fired up and performing at the peak of their powers.

In Leigh Halfpenny, they have one of the greatest placekickers in the game and in no-nonsense referee Wayne Barnes, an official who will not fear blowing up the New Zealanders for anything even slightly cynical, the Welsh have an official who will give Halfpenny a plethora of opportunities to unleash that siege gun of a boot of his. Let's hope the Welsh are able to put up a quality performance this weekend and make the most of the opportunities afforded to them.

New Zealand

Coach Steve Hansen has been forced to name a starting XV minus skipper Kieran Read, who is out injured. Instead, Sam Whitelock assumes command of the great black vessel, which is looking to end off what has been a rather tumultuous season on a high with a 29th-straight victory over the Welsh.

While Read is definitely a big loss for the men in black, this is a side littered with such awesome strength in depth that they are able to call upon the likes of Luke Whitelock as cover at 8. They never cease to amaze.

Scotland came within a single pass of getting one over the World Champions last week, and they will realize that Wales will smell blood in the water. A calm, composed showing is needed by the Kiwis this weekend, and flyhalf Beauden Barrett will be under extreme pressure to keep his boys playing footy in the right areas of the pitch. For the All Blacks, any win will do - anyway, anyhow - as they seek to get over the line in 2017 with their pride intact.

Verdict: Wales (+18.5) 9/10
The All Black win is certainly a banker here but the Welsh plus is my tip for this one. The fact that Wales simply do not know how to beat New Zealand will come back to bite them. The All Blacks may have their backs against the wall, but they should have the pedigree to get the win no matter what the Welsh throw at them this Saturday. I doubt Hansen's men will be able to clear this rather large handicap sans Kieran Reed and a few other big guns, however.

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