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All Blacks tour as tough as ever: Gatland

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/05/2016 Andrew Baldock

Wales's rugby team Head Coach Warren Gatland © AP Photo/Alastair Grant Wales's rugby team Head Coach Warren Gatland Wales coach Warren Gatland expects no drop-off in standards from an All Blacks side missing a handful of departed player greats.

Gatland says he and his players are excited about the prospect of a three-Test series on the world champions' home soil in June, where they they have never won before.

While New Zealand are red-hot favourites to continue their dominance, they will need to do it with a new-look outfit, given they can no longer call on influential figures like retired captain Richie McCaw and French-based backs Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Gatland says the value of those players was apparent during their World Cup title defence last year, most notably when they didn't make good starts to games.

"They had the McCaws, the Carters, the Nonus and the Conrad Smiths to draw on, not to panic and to trust their processes, come from behind and not just win games, but win comfortably," he said.

"But (their replacements) will fit seamlessly into a New Zealand set-up. A lot of them have been performing pretty well for those Super Rugby sides, who all seem to be going pretty well. So we're not underestimating how tough that proposition is."

Gatland says his players must have the belief that they can put the All Blacks under pressure.

Any team or player is fallible if they are taken out of their comfort zone, he says.

Next year's tour of New Zealand by the British and Irish Lions is also on the minds of some in Gatland's squad.

He suspects a lot of his players will seek an inside track to Lions selection by performing strongly in June.

"A lot of them are desperate to want to put their hands up for the following year. They are all pretty aware how important the (Wales) side's performances are and how important individual performances are."

Gatland unveiled a 35-man tour squad for a Test against England at Twickenham on May 29 followed by the New Zealand tour, which comprises three Tests and a midweek fixture against the Chiefs.

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