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'Still a massive threat': Wales wary of 'aggressive' All Blacks team

SPOTLIGHT: Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys says New Zealand remain a “massive threat” despite a rollercoaster year as the teams prepare for Saturday’s clash in Cardiff.

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Ian Foster’s All Blacks have lost four of their 10 Tests in 2022 and have slipped to fourth in the world rankings, although they still won the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship in September.

The tourists are targeting a 33rd successive win against Wales, having not lost to them since 1953, and Humphreys believes they should not be under-estimated.

“However many people write them off, they still come through and are still a massive threat,” said the Wales forwards specialist.

“They can hurt you in two phases, they can score tries in five minutes and put you out of the game. That hasn’t changed.

“They are a little bit different in terms of their mindset about coming at you at set-piece. They are a lot more aggressive now.

“We don’t see them at all as being vulnerable – we see them as the winners of the Rugby Championship.”

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Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is due to name his starting XV on Thursday.

The build-up has been complicated by a number of injury issues affecting key players including Taulupe Faletau, George North and Josh Adams.

Pivac was already without four British and Irish Lions in Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Wyn Jones and Josh Navidi, who were not selected in the 35-man squad for the November series because of injuries.

Gareth Anscombe is expected to fill the flyhalf role vacated by Biggar, while fullback Leigh Halfpenny could make a first Wales start since suffering major knee ligament damage 16 months ago.

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Captain Justin Tipuric is likely to be joined in the back-row by fellow openside flank Tommy Reffell but if a calf muscle injury sidelines Faletau, Tipuric could move to No.8.

And any enforced back-row reshuffle could open the door for Exeter’s highly rated Christ Tshiunza or Scarlets’ uncapped Josh MacLeod.

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