Preview: New Zealand v Wales

Date published: June 24 2016

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New Zealand will look to complete a series whitewash over Wales when these sides face off in the third and final Test, in Dunedin, on Saturday.

Although the All Blacks won the previous Tests, in Auckland and Wellington, Wales did not disgrace themselves and delivered competitive performances on both occasions.

But although Wales have done well to box above their weight during this series against the world champions, their coach, Warren Gatland, will be a frustrated man as they are yet to play well for a full 80 minutes.

In the first Test at Eden Park, New Zealand were under the cosh for large periods and Wales held an 18-15 lead at half-time – and even led 21-18 on the hour mark – before the All Blacks upped the ante during that Test's latter stages to register a 39-21 victory.

And last weekend the teams were level at 10-10 at the interval before New Zealand showed why they are the world champions, eventually claiming a 39-21 win.

Gatland has made just two changes to his starting line-up with Rob Evans and Tomas Francis coming in for the injured Gethin Jenkins and Samson Lee respectively.

It will be interesting to see what effect those changes have on the scrums as both Wales and the All Blacks have 100% success rates at the set-piece so far in this series with Wales winning 14 out of 14 on their own feed and  New Zealand 12 out of 12.

If Wales want to stun the All Blacks it will be an historical result for several reasons. They have lost their last 28 matches against the world champions, with their last triumph registered in 1953. A win for Wales will also be a first in New Zealand and will end the All Blacks' 40-Test winning run on home soil, which is 10 more than their next best streak in Test history.

With the series in the bag, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has made some alterations to his matchday squad although he was quick to emphasise that they will not treat this clash as a dead rubber. 

The selection of blindside flanker Elliot Dixon, who comes into the run-on side for the rested Jerome Kaino, is an interesting one as the Highlanders man has big boots to fill, although few will argue that he is capable of doing just that as he has been in superb for the Super Rugby champions for the past two seasons.

Beauden Barrett is another player looking to to make the most of his opportunity in the starting line-up. The Hurricanes fly-half gets his first start of the series, after replacing the injured Aaron Cruden last weekend, and will look to build on his impressive cameo when he delivered a game-changing performance.

New Zealand need just nine points in this clash to wrack up their 1,000th against Wales. They have achieved that milestone against just three other nations – Australia, South Africa, France – at Test level.

Players to Watch

For New Zealand: All eyes will be on recalled behemoth winger Julian Savea, who was dropped for last week's Test in Wellington after a below par showing in the series opener in Auckland. Savea, in full flight, is one of the most destructive runners in the game but performances of substance have been rare this year. It has been suggested, by Hansen that the 2015 World Cup's top try-scorer's poor form was due to a mental rut and that he needed time to refresh to regain his passion for the game. We'll be waiting to see if a one-week break was enough time for Savea to do that.

For Wales: Veteran centre Jamie Roberts was an injury doubt, after sustaining a head knock in Wellington last weekend, but has been passed fit which is a massive boost for his team. Roberts will be expected to get his team over the gainline with his direct running but the All Blacks will also be wary of his playmaking skills as he has the ability to create space for his dangerous outside backs. 

Head-to-head: The breakdown battle between the All Blacks' Sam Cane and Wales captain Sam Warburton will be one of this Test's highlights. Cane has taken over from retired All Blacks great Richie McCaw but although he started in the previous two Tests, there's pressure on him from Ardie Savea who has made a big impact off bench in Auckland and Wellington. Warburton has competed well for the loose ball throughout the series and knows that a dominant showing in that facet of play could play a big part in helping his side secure an unlikely victory.

Previous Results:

2016: New Zealand won 36-22 in Wellington
2016: New Zealand won 39-21 in Auckland
2014: New Zealand won 34-16 in Cardiff
2012: New Zealand won 33-10 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 37-25 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 29-10 in Hamilton
2010: New Zealand won 42-9 in Dunedin
2009: New Zealand won 19-12 in Cardiff

Prediction: This will be a thrilling one but, once again, the home side shouldn't have any problems in taking it. New Zealand by 12 points!

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Waisake Naholo

Wales: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Scott Williams 

Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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