Henry demands more from his All Blacks against Wales
HAMILTON, New Zealand: Despite amassing 108 points in two games against Ireland and Wales, All Blacks coach Graham Henry expects his side to step up another notch in the second Test against Wales today.
While his Wales counterpart Warren Gatland will be satisfied if his team can ear n “respect” in New Zealand, Henry has set the bar much higher for the final run-out before the tough Tri-Nations series.
Although the All Blacks launched an expansive counter-attacking game and scored nine tries in beating Ireland 66-28 and Wales in the first Test 42-9, Henry was far from satisfied.
“I think we’re probably playing at about 70 percent,” said Henry, who is desperate to reverse last year’s 0-3 record against arch foes South Africa.
He has made seven changes for the second Test against Wales to give everyone game time before naming his Tri-Nations squad on Sunday.
The possibility of an eighth change evaporated after ace flyhalf Dan Carter ran freely at training yesterday after being hampered by a calf strain earlier in the week.
One of the All Blacks’ biggest failings has been an inability to start strongly.
They struggled to a 15-9 lead at halftime in the first Test against Wales before pulling away in the second half, and captain Richie McCaw expects another intensely physical start by the Red Dragons.
“Early in the game they got stuck in and we were on the back foot so we’ve got to make sure we match it from the start,” he said after the All Blacks rounded off preparations.
“They’re going to be a team that’s hurting and they’re going to climb in so I’ll just be happy with a good performance that’s a win.”
McCaw added the Tri-Nations factor was also weighing on his side and “that adds a bit of an edge, and that’s a great thing. “Hopefully it lifts the standard.” The spotlight is on three All Blacks in particular – fullback Mils Muliaina and lock Tom Donnelly start after limited club play following several months sidelined by injury, and Zac Guildford gets his chance in the crowded wing berth.
Wales coach Gatland has made only two changes, including relegating 90-Test veteran Stephen Jones to the bench in favour of 20-year-old Dan Biggar in what was seen as a surprise move.
But he indicated his backs were not to blame for the first Test loss in Dunedin as he pointed to a forward pack unable to keep pace with the All Blacks as the game progressed.
“We wanted to give some of those forwards another opportunity.
“It’s a chance for that pack to go out there and redeem themselves for a bit longer than they did last week.”
Gatland was proud with the way his side performed for the first 50 minutes, but said their inability to maintain pace with the All Blacks until the final whistle was not good enough.
“Whatever we’ve achieved in the northern hemisphere as players or as coaches, it doesn’t mean jack here unless you do something here,” said Gatland, a former All Blacks hooker in the late 1980s and early 1990s who played his provincial rugby for Waikato.
“Unless you can come to New Zealand and perform or win, or at least push a team right to the limit, you don’t leave the country with the respect of the people, and that’s important to us.”