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All Blacks still a major force: Gatland

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/06/2016
Warren Gatland © Getty Warren Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes the All Blacks will be just as fearsome despite the loss of their star men.

The world champions face Wales this month in their first Test series for over a decade without legendary captain Richie McCaw and World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter.

Centres Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith are also absent after their moves to France, forcing head coach Steve Hansen to freshen up his squad.

But Wales coach Gatland, who played 17 non-international matches for the All Blacks, reckons they are still a force to be reckoned with.

"You could describe it as being pretty arrogant if I talk about weakness in an All Blacks team," he said.

"Sometimes there are young, exciting, talented players coming through who are a little bit inexperienced.

"What you might say is weakness is players potentially on their way up, not as experienced as some other players who left. But there is definitely real quality there."

The All Blacks started slowly against Georgia en route to winning last year's World Cup and Gatland is hoping Wales can catch New Zealand cold in the first test at Eden Park on June 11.

He told his players to watch that game to realise New Zealand could have their off-days, just like any other team.

"There were a lot of mistakes made and they were obviously ring-rusty. They got better as the tournament went along," he said.

"Like every team when you put them under pressure hopefully there is some small hint of vulnerability.

"It's going to be tough, but we're not here just to make up the numbers, and we're not here to start the rebuilding phase of New Zealand rugby either."

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