Wales must 'switch on' against All Blacks

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:53
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Hooker Ken Owens says Wales will need to be "alive for 80 minutes" when they tackle the All Blacks on Saturday, bidding to end more than 60 years of hurt.

Owens is among an exclusive club of Wales internationals to have beaten the world champions, albeit while on British and Irish Lions duty in Wellington earlier this year.

Wales's long and painful wait since their last victory against New Zealand stands at 64 years and 29 Tests - they have lost every game and conceded almost 1,000 points since a famous 13-8 victory over New Zealand six days before Christmas in 1953.

Scarlets hooker Owens and his fellow 2017 Lions Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Rhys Webb are set to be involved at the Principality Stadium this weekend.

"I think it is their competitive nature," said Owens when asked to assess New Zealand's status. "They never feel they can be beaten. They have got a winning confidence and a winning mentality, especially when their backs are against the wall.

"It is their go-to [players] who can produce for them in those critical moments, which I think is probably what has set them apart over the past eight or nine years from most other sides."

Owens, who has 51 caps for Wales, was on the bench when the Lions claimed a stunning 24-21 second Test victory over New Zealand five months ago.

"The biggest thing we saw over the three Tests is how you have got to put them under pressure - stay in the fight, if you want to call it that - win the collisions, have the line speed and be alive for 80 minutes.

"In the first Test, we probably switched off on one or two occasions and it is about being alive for 80 minutes - expect the unexpected from them, front up physically and bring a lot of line speed in defence."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his team on Thursday, when there could be recalls for 93 times-capped centre Jamie Roberts and fit-again flanker Justin Tipuric, although injuries have sidelined Owens's fellow Lions Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies.

"From a Welsh perspective, we have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, but there are a good group of players who played in the summer who have got that win," said Owens. "We can take confidence from that."

Agence France-Presse