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Brilliant NZ bench a problem for Wales

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/06/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

They say a golf major doesn't truly begin until the final nine holes.

For the All Blacks, a Test against Wales these days doesn't seem to start until the 60th minute. Or even later.

The world champions have transformed into clinical late finishers against all opponents in recent years under coach Steve Hansen but Wales have proven particularly fallible.

Hansen won't want the same stress as the last two demanding Tests against the Welsh but he will take comfort from how his team have roared home to win both by 18 points.

In their last match of 2014 they needed three tries in the final eight minutes to see off the emboldened hosts in Cardiff.

Last week's first Test in Auckland was similar, with the reserves providing the impetus for three tries in the last 18 minutes.

Welsh coach Warren Gatland simply accepts the All Blacks pack firepower on their bench.

"We've just got to live with that. They've done it with a lot of teams in the past," he said.

"We spoke about how relentless they are and keep coming at you. For those players that are out there, it's making sure they go past that 60-65 minutes and keep putting them under pressure."

Gatland left his bench substitutions until much later than the All Blacks at Eden Park.

He won't say if that tactic will change but believes it's important that the players who are on for 80 minutes don't clock off.

"We felt last weekend that the team was going pretty well but probably stopped playing after about 60 minutes.

"You have to take risks at this level and do it for a full 80 minutes."

Hansen admired the expansive Welsh approach and suspects they will repeat it, despite losing gun winger George North to injury.

He hopes other nations adopt the same attacking methods to Test rugby, which he says doesn't need to rely on winning scrum penalties and kicking for 5m lineout drives.

"They're going to have to play a brand of rugby which they're actually quite good at playing," Hansen said.

"On Saturday night when they did to it, they looked good. I'm sure they'll be encouraged and come out and want to have a real crack at us."

Hansen says those commentators who believe the Welsh probably blew their best chance last weekend to win a Test in this series are being disrespectful.

However, he admits the game-breaking quality of his bench is a problem the Welsh will need to solve.

"Our bench doesn't come to make up the numbers, they come to actually add to the game.

"We think of 23 starters and it's a matter of when your turn comes to start in a game."


2016, Auckland, won 39-21

Trailed by three points after a rusty first half but stormed home with three tries in the last 18 minutes.

2014, Cardiff, won 34-16

Down 16-15 with less than 10 minutes on the clock, they conjured three tries to ensure captain Richie McCaw could celebrate his 100th Test.

2010, Cardiff, won 37-25

Never more than a converted try clear until crossing twice in the last eight minutes.

2009, Cardiff, won 19-12

All square at halftime, hooker Andrew Hore's lone try of a stodgy game midway through the second half proves decisive.

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