Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, November 7
All Blacks keen to maintain streak
November 6, 2009
New Zealand's Kieran Read hopes Wales psyche themselves out © Getty Images
Fresh from building an imposing record against the Wallabies, the All Blacks now have an eye on their legendary Test winning streak against Wales and are determined not to be known as the side who let it slip.
Wales will view Saturday's Test at Millennium Stadium as a chance to end what local media dubs '56 years of hurt', but the All Blacks will fiercely guard their 20-Test streak.
While the Springboks have the All Blacks' number this year, and France will be confident of a November victory in Marseille after their June upset, Wales carry a heavy psychological burden. The All Blacks saw evidence of the mental side of continuous defeats this year with their oldest foes the Wallabies, who they beat for a seventh consecutive time in Tokyo.
"I'm not sure if the history weighs too much, but you definitely take confidence and your expectations are that you can do it," All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read said. "In their minds, if their group of players haven't won against an All Blacks side, if it's weighing on their minds, then it's a positive for us."
Read is among six changes to the All Blacks' starting XV from Tokyo and, aside from personal pride in maintaining a starting spot and rebuilding a shaky year for the team, the Welsh winning streak is a handy aside.
"Definitely, we know the All Blacks haven't lost for over 50 years and you don't want to be part of that team that loses," Read said.
All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen has been there before as Wales coach and insisted the hoodoo was no barrier if the tourists weren't on their game.
"They've got a lot of experience. It's no different to a drought, there's always one day closer to it raining. One day they will win, let's hope it's not this weekend."
A year ago in Cardiff, Wales led 9-6 at halftime. The All Blacks soaked up the pressure then delivered 23 unanswered points via tries to Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu.
Under coach Warren Gatland, Wales have 12 members of that starting side back while the All Blacks have just seven returnees, with the missing brigade including Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams and Richard Kahui (all injured) and suspended duo Sitiveni Sivivatu and Tony Woodcock.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said: "They come out with a lot of passion and they hoe into things. I can't see that being too different this time. They had us under a bit of pressure (last year) but you always believe if you get hold of the ball and get at the right end of the field you can put pressure back on them."
McCaw rated the atmosphere under the roof at a jam-packed Millennium Stadium as one of his favourites in world rugby.