All Blacks injuries no help to Wales – Gatland

24 November 2017 01:03

Wales head coach Warren Gatland does not believe New Zealand will be weakened by their lengthy list of injuries when the two sides meet in Cardiff on Saturday.

Gatland oversaw the British and Irish Lions' series draw against the All Blacks earlier in the year and will now be hoping to mastermind Wales' first win in the fixture since 1953.

World champions New Zealand will be without captain Kieran Read, as well as the likes of Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles, for this weekend's match at the Principality Stadium.

But Gatland insists: "It doesn't make any difference. They're still the best team in the world.

"They could put out a fourth, fifth or sixth strength team and still beat most teams because of the players that they have.

"They're obviously missing seven or eight of their regular starters from 12 months ago, but in saying that it's an opportunity for them to develop some depth.

"We're going through the same process. We've got four or five of our key players out as well and it's a good chance for us to develop some depth too."

Gatland is, though, feeling more optimistic about his side's chances than in previous years, pointing to the experience gained by some of his players on the Lions tour.

"The reason I'm excited is probably the way the players have prepared themselves," he added. "We have a group of players in the squad, some of them have had success 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 have that fear factor about playing them.

"The fact that some of these players have played them on a regular basis, there's not that trepidation. In terms of familiarity, that gives you a little more confidence going out there, having played against those players on a regular basis you feel more comfortable.

"These guys have prepared really well this week. They just seem calm and not so nervous and uptight as they might have been in the past.

"I think that's the experience of people like Alun Wyn [Jones], or Ken Owens in the forward pack and Taulupe Faletau, just having had that experience of playing against the All Blacks."

Gatland also commented that he expected the Williams-on-Williams clash - Sonny Bill versus Wales centre pairing Owen and Scott - to be key to the outcome of the match.

"That's huge. We saw last week some of his offloading threat, we saw that in the summer as well," he said.

"His ability to get his arms free, offload and free up the back lines - it was a pretty special try they scored at the weekend from that.

"It's something we have spoken about, trying to limit that threat that obviously we will be exposed to at some point at the weekend.

"There's no doubt at some stage a player of his ability will expose us and get the ball away. We've just got to be able to react to that."

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