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All Blacks expect Welsh midfield onslaught

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/06/2016 Robert Lowe

Recalled All Black Ryan Crotty is expecting to do plenty of tackling in the opening Test against Wales in Auckland.

There has been a lot of it in practice in the lead-up to the match at Eden Park on Saturday night.

With the seasoned pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith having departed after the World Cup for France, and Sonny Bill Williams chasing an Olympics sevens berth, the All Blacks will have Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa as their starting midfield backs.

Between them, Crotty and Fekitoa have a combined 28 caps.

They will come up against the Welsh duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, who have 133 Test appearances between them and also boast a size advantage.

Crotty knows his defensive qualities will be tested at second five-eighth, with the Welsh likely to run a lot of ball his way.

"Definitely, there have been a lot tackles put in so far this week already," he said.

"You just have to be spot on with your technique. I've tackled a lot of big guys before. You have to chop them low. You can't run without your legs."

Crotty, 27, made his Test debut in 2013 and played in last year's Rugby Championship, but missed the cut for the World Cup.

While there were overseas offers, he said adding to his 15 caps had remained a huge goal for him.

Coach Steve Hansen said staying connected and communicating well would be keys for Crotty and Fekitoa.

"It's an area that Wales will attack a lot - they use Roberts a lot of the time anyway and Jonathan Davies is used as an outside break player," he said.

"They will be asked some questions but if they stay connected and talk to each other and work as a unit, then they will be fine."

Hansen's faith in Crotty's ability to do the job is exemplified by the comment that he had never had a poor game for the All Blacks.

"He has been unfortunate in that someone has been considered to be better than him in Conrad and Ma'a and Sonny, but now it's his turn," Hansen said.

"He doesn't have to do anything different other than be Ryan Crotty and be the player we expect him to be, and I'm sure he's relishing the opportunity.

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