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Plumtree expects physical Wales contest

Plumtree expects physical Wales contest

Plumtree expects physical Wales contest

New Zealand assistant coach John Plumtree is ignoring talk of a Wales selection headache and insists the All Blacks must be at their very best to win their Autumn Nations Series opener.

New Zealand are hoping to extend a 68-year unbeaten run against the reigning Guinness Six Nations champions when they meet in Cardiff on Saturday.

However, Wales are without several key players, with the likes of Justin Tipuric, Liam Williams, Josh Navidi, Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Dan Lydiate all missing through injury.

Head coach Wayne Pivac has recalled several players from the cold, with the likes of Rhys Priestland, Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams bidding to win their first caps in years.

But Plumtree warned his players to block out the noise and focus on preparing for a hard-fought Test match.

“I’m sure the game is going to be very physical. We expect that coming from them. Every game you play against Wales, it’s always been a tough task,” Plumtree said.

“A couple of the leaders have stood up and talked to the boys that haven’t been here before about the challenge. Wales are a side that you’ve got to be very patient with, you’ve got to punch your way, and you’ve got to work very hard for a victory.

“We haven’t really read too much into the players they haven’t got available. In my time as a coach, when three or four players aren’t available, there’s another three or four that come in that always want to give their very best.

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“I’m sure those players that do come in for Wales that are taking maybe some of the bigger names’ places will want to prove what they’re worth in their jersey.

“That can make life tough for us, so we understand the challenge and we’re preparing for a real tough one.”

Saturday’s game will mark New Zealand’s first trip to Cardiff in four years and the first meeting between the teams since the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off in 2019.

New Zealand scored 33 and 40 points in those two matches but with wet weather forecast for Saturday, Plumtree is expecting a slog fight and insists that could play in Wales’ hands.

“If you watch the Welsh play, they’re a very patient side, they build a lot of pressure through carrying the ball off nine, particularly, and they’ll be patient with their kicking game as well, so they use that to gain territory,” he added.

“If it’s a little bit wet at the stadium and the roof’s open, then, for want of a better word, it’ll be a real slug fight, potentially on a pretty soft ground.

“Tactically, we’ll have to be very smart and take our opportunities when we do get territory because we know that they’ll be working really hard defensively and they’ll be looking to build pressure with that ball.”

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