Cardiff – New Zealand No 8 Kieran Read is adamant the world champions will be subjected to a “bloody tough Test match” when they face Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The All Blacks have arrived in Cardiff on a run of 19 unbeaten matches over the last 15 months while Wales have lost five matches in a row, including morale-sapping defeats this month by Argentina
Wales haven't beaten New Zealand since 1953 and what had been billed as an exciting clash between the Six Nations Grand Slam champions and the world champions is now being forecast to end in a thumping All Blacks victory.
But Crusaders back-row forward Read, who captained New Zealand for the first time in their 42-10 victory over Italy in Rome last weekend, said previous experience had made him wary of Wales.
“Over here it has generally taken us a full 80 minutes to wear them down,” he said Tuesday. “I don't think we have ever had an easy game against Wales since I have been involved.
“They are a bloody tough side and really come at us physically, so it is always a really tough game against them.
“You look at a team like Wales and not too long ago they were dominating European rugby and no team goes backwards that quickly,” he said.
“They are still a quality side and we respect them for that, and any team with their backs against the wall will come out fighting, so we expect that on Saturday night.
“They will raise their game, they will be a lot better across the board. They won't be happy with where they are at and in that position you really dig your heels in and look to come out strong.”
And Read is expecting a particularly tough contest at the ruck, where the contest between opensides and captains Richie McCaw and Sam Warburton has long been anticipated even if Wales's Warburton has been off his game this season.
“The loose forwards, particularly Sam, are pretty key players across the board for them and we cannot take them lightly.”
The 27-year-old Read, tipped as a permanent successor to McCaw when the World Cup-winning skipper finally stands down from the captaincy, was still basking in his Italy experience.
“It was great. I really enjoyed it, it was an awesome experience,” he said.
“It is something that will be with me the rest of my life, the way the boys played was awesome.” – Sapa-AFP