Second Test: New Zealand v Wales Preview



We take a look at the second June international between New Zealand and Wales.

Steve Hansen's men square off with Warren Gatland's charges at the Westpac Stadium this Saturday in the second test of their three-match series.

A victory for the hosts would see them wrap up the series while a victory for the Welsh - as highly unlikely as it is – would reignite what seems a dead rubber of a June series.

New Zealand v Wales | Saturday 18 June | Westpac Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/20 | Draw 49/1 | Wales 15/2
Handicap
New Zealand (-19.5) 9/10 | Wales (+19.5) 9/10

New Zealand
The All Blacks were given a bit of a rude awakening during the first half of the opening Test in Auckland. The Welsh came out with a huge amount of intent during the opening stanza and were unlucky to have only built up a three-point lead when the teams headed in for half-time.

Steve Hansen’s men looked rather rusty in the first stanza but showed that there will be no post-World Cup hangover for New Zealand rugby with a clinical second-half display that was epitomised by skipper, Kieran Read.

The Crusaders' number eight was magnificent. His link up play was top notch, he cleared ruck after ruck, and his game management was Richie McCaw-esque. The big man played a pivotal role in his side eventually running out 39-21 victors. He also seamlessly transitioned into Richie McCaw’s leadership role.

Another man who impressed in last week’s victory was Highlanders flyer Waisake Naholo. While the 96-kilogram winger copped some stick from New Zealand press due to a few howlers under the high ball and an ill-advised attempt to shut down space by coming off his wing, his running game was joy to behold. He also illustrated just how strong he is with ball in hand by barging over the Welsh try line from close range to score his second try of the game.

I reckon Steve Hansen is a rather content man despite his side’s slow start to the first Test. Yeah he’ll be a bit worried with some of the facets of the All Blacks play – Aaron Cruden’s kicking out of hand wasn’t out of the top draw and Julian Savea looked a shadow of the man who was bagging tries for fun in last year’s Super Rugby tournament – but at the end of the day his side has an advantage in the series and they’ve shaken off some of that infamous Test match rust.

Wales
You really have to feel for Wales. Having put in another typically gutsy display, the Dragons will still be wondering how the All Blacks managed to extend their full-time lead to such a large margin. Not only did Warren Gatland’s side have to endure a glance at a rather unflattering full-time scoreboard but they also lost key man George North to a hamstring injury. The ‘Welsh Lomu’ will take no further part in the series which is a huge blow as he enjoyed one of his best games in a Dragons jumper last week.

North won’t be alone on the long-haul flight back to Wales as scrumhalf Llyod Williams also pulled up with an injury last week. Scarlets' utility back, Rhys Patchell, and Welsh Under 20 winger Keelan Giles have been flown out as cover, although, neither is likely to see any first team action with Eli Walker set to cover for North.

To compound matters for Gatland, his second stringers were hammered by a weakened Waikato Chiefs outfit in their midweek game. That defeat will have a huge psychological effect on the whole touring squad. It is also worth noting that incumbent inside-centre Jamie Roberts played the majority of the second half against the Chiefs. Although Roberts is a class act, one and a half games of high-intensity rugby over such a short period could have a huge effect on his performance this weekend,

Verdict: New Zealand  (-19.5) 9/10 
They weren't at their best last week and still managed to win by 18 points. I expect Steve Hansen's men to put in a much more polished performance and subsequently, clear the margin at the Westpac Stadium.

Written by Darry Worthington for 
@Hollywoodbets.

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