All Blacks never vulnerable, warns Gatland
Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP)
The All Blacks are never vulnerable, Wales coach Warren Gatland insisted before a one-off Test on Saturday, adding however that there would not be the same level of Welsh trepidation playing the world champions in the wake of the Lions tour.
Steve Hansen's New Zealand held out for a 22-17 victory over Scotland last week, their performance drawing criticism from media back home.
"People are saying things about the All Blacks at the moment - someone asked me the question the other day, looking for a headline, were they vulnerable - I don't think the All Blacks are ever vulnerable," said Gatland.
"Saturday is their last game of the tour, and they get a break after it.
"They are undefeated on this tour. They know how to win, they know how to grind out performances and they know to come back."
Wales have a disastrous record against New Zealand, their last victory, 13-6, coming back in 1953.
Since then there have come 29 defeats, with the All Blacks having racked up almost 1,000 points.
But Gatland, himself an All Black although he never played for the Test side, insisted his team would be well motivated for the Principality Stadium showdown.
"We are excited about Saturday and the opportunity to play the best team in the world. If you can't get up for that, then you shouldn't be on the pitch," he said.
"The players realise what a big game it is, and they are really looking forward to it."
Gatland led the British and Irish Lions to a 1-1 series draw over the summer, with a number of Welsh internationals involved.
- No talk of Lions tour -
But he said the tour had not been raised in the build-up to the game.
"As a group, we haven't spoken about the summer and what happened in New Zealand. It is about Wales and us concentrating ourselves and preparing against a team," Gatland insisted.
"The reason we are excited is probably the way the players have prepared themselves. We have got a group of players in the squad. some of them have had success, obviously in a different jersey.
"I think in the past, and rightly so, the All Blacks, having been the best team in the world consistently, you kind of have almost that fear factor about playing them.
"The fact that some of these players have played them on a regular basis, it is not that sort of trepidation, I suppose, in terms of familiarity.
"Having played against a number of those players on a regular basis, you just feel a bit more comfortable."
But Gatland was quick to add: "They are still the best team in the world. They could put out a fourth, fifth, sixth-strength team and still beat most teams because of the quality of players that they have.
"They are obviously probably missing seven or eight of their regular starters from 12 months ago, but in saying that, it is an opportunity they get to develop some depth, and we are going through the same process."
© 2017 AFP