x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Henry faces Wales tester

Graham Henry has unhappy memories of his last visit to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Graham Henry has unhappy memories of his last visit to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. His New Zealand side had been overwhelming favourites to win last year's World Cup but came unstuck in an epic quarter-final, racing to a 13-0 lead over France before losing out 20-18.

But Henry has every intention of revisiting happier times at Wales' national stadium today. "My last time at the Millennium Stadium wasn't a good one, I can tell you that," he said. "We lost a game we should have won and I remember thinking in the post-match press conference that this might be my last game as the All Blacks coach." As it was, Henry kept his job and his side are on the crest of a wave having been crowned Tri Nations champions and being in the midst of an unbeaten run in Europe this month.

Henry has some good memories of Wales, however, having coached them for four years from 1998. "I had some great times in Wales, some really fond memories, and there have been some great games of rugby there," he said. "It'll be a bit odd not cheering on Wales as I step on to the turf, but I'm sure my old employers won't begrudge that." Wales last won a Test against New Zealand in 1953 and the All Blacks are hoping for a 20th straight win over them.

However, captain Richie McCaw believes the Welsh boast the toughest test of any of the nations on the All Blacks' European tour. His side have already beaten Scotland and Ireland 32-6 and 22-3 respectively, and face England in their final tour match the following weekend. But McCaw said: "They've got a front five to match ours and they've got some electric backs who could cause a stir if given half a chance."

New Zealand have made just one change from the Ireland game, Richard Kahui coming in for the injured Conrad Smith at centre. Wales, meanwhile, are unchanged from the side who lost to South Africa but Gatland has warned his big-name players. He said: "Reputations mean nothing to me, it's all about your latest performance. So, the fact that this is the All Blacks means nothing." @Email:majendie@thenational.ae