CARDIFF – Warren Gatland says the fear that once gripped Welsh sides when facing New Zealand will not be there at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday when his side aim to end a 64-year wait for success against the All Blacks.
Wales are on a 29-game losing run against New Zealand, and were well beaten in all three Tests they played away against the world champions last year.
But coach Gatland says the success of the British & Irish Lions in June, when they drew the three-match series with one win each and a tie against New Zealand with a strong contingent of Welsh players, should fill his team with confidence.
Even if the likes of Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Taulupe Faletau and Sam Warburton will all be missing through injury.
“We have got a group of players who have had success, albeit in a different jersey,” Gatland told reporters on Thursday.
“In the past there has been a fear factor of playing them, but familiarity means there isn’t that trepidation because players have played against them on a regular basis.
“The players appear calm and not so nervous and uptight as they have been in the past. We are encouraging our players to be confident and move the ball when the opportunities arise.”
New Zealand were given a scare by Scotland last weekend in a 22-17 win, and also have a number of injury worries ahead of what will be their final Test in 2017.
But Gatland believes that if anything, this will spur the All Blacks on to lift their performance.
“People are saying things about the All Blacks at the moment,” he said. “They are more dangerous than ever on Saturday because it is their last game on the tour.
“They know how to win, how to grind out performances. We are excited about the opportunity to play the best team in the world. If you can’t get up for that, you shouldn’t be on the pitch.
“They are still the best team in the world. They can put a fourth-choice out and still beat most teams because of the quality of players they have got.”