Wales look to emulate All Blacks skill set across the park
WELLINGTON – Wales are still a work in progress in terms of trying to match the All Blacks for skill but know the most important part of their job on Saturday will be to sustain their effort for 80 minutes, assistant coach Neil Jenkins said on Friday.
The tourists, playing a game of width and pace, placed the world champions under sustained pressure for about 60 minutes of the first test in Auckland last week before the All Blacks moved up a gear in the final quarter to claim a 39-21 victory.
The New Zealanders’ ease with the ball in hand, putting players into space and committing defenders, was evident not only in the first test but also when the Waikato Chiefs hammered Wales 40-7 in Hamilton on Tuesday.
“They’re all comfortable with ball in hand no matter what position they’re playing,” Jenkins told reporters at a sun-drenched Wellington Regional Stadium on Friday.
“That’s something we can learn and get better at. They’ve certainly got skills across the board, (and) it’s something that we’re working on.
“We’re trying to develop our game and play a more expansive and wider game. I think we showed that in long periods last week, but it’s all about the 80 minutes.”
Wales enter the game without dangerous winger George North, who suffered a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the rest of the three-test series, and have rejigged their back three.
Late call-up Rhys Patchell only arrived in New Zealand on Monday but was named to start at fullback on Saturday.
The 23-year-old, whose only two tests were against Japan three years ago, plays flyhalf at club level but coach Warren Gatland feels his best position is in the number 15 shirt.
Jenkins was confident Patchell would not be out of place on Saturday and reasoned the All Blacks would probably not look to exploit his inexperience through a continuous aerial bombardment.
“I’m not sure that’s the way they play. There will be a lot of kicking, but it will be intelligent kicking,” Jenkins said.
“Patch is a confident young kid. He’s an exciting talent, he likes to play with ball in hand. He’s obviously got a pretty good kicking game.
“I’m sure tomorrow he’ll hopefully enjoy the occasion and play the game that’s happening in front of him and make the right decisions.” -Reuters