Wales captain hints 'hoodoo' puts NZ under pressure too
SPOTLIGHT: Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has suggested his side’s “hoodoo” against New Zealand also puts the All Blacks under pressure ahead of their clash in Cardiff on Saturday.
The fixture has been a lopsided affair for nearly seven decades, with Wales suffering a run of 31 successive defeats against New Zealand since they last beat the All Blacks in 1953.
Even under celebrated coach Warren Gatland, like current Wales boss Wayne Pivac a New Zealander, Wales played the All Blacks 12 times from 2008 to 2019 and lost by an average of 17 points per match.
Wales are the Six Nations champions but few expect them to end that run of losses this weekend given they are without a raft of first-choice players.
Liam Williams, George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi are injured, while stars at England-based clubs such as Louis Rees-Zammit, Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau will not be released for a match that falls outside World Rugby’s designated Test window.
But veteran lock Jones said the All Blacks’ 68-year winning streak could weigh on the Rugby Championship title-holders.
“The hoodoo and the record has got to go at some point but what I did say is that we need a performance,” Jones said on Friday.
“Dare I say it, who is the pressure on? Is it us, is it New Zealand? I don’t know. It depends on the neutral as to their opinion.
“But it [the record] is going to go sooner or later. We just need to focus on the rugby… focus on us, get our completions in and our execution and we will be where we want to be irrelevant of the result.”
Story continues below…
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 28, 2021
Wales will be playing in front of a capacity crowd of around 75,000 fans at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.
But Jones said even newcomers such as 21-year-old flank Taine Basham, who will be making his first Test start, knew what to expect.
“A lot of these guys will have been, as I did before I became an international, before I became a full-time professional, will have been to internationals. You grow up in Wales, that is your education.
“If you want to use an American term, when you go to the ‘Big House’ [the nickname of the University of Michigan’s college football stadium that has a capacity of over 100,000], you are in the ‘Big House’ and everyone’s going to be there on Saturday.
“For a lot of the players, that education, the foundations have been laid from a young age. Now there’s the chance to be able to step up across the whitewash and see it from the inside, is what it’s all about once you become a pro. That’s what we’ve got tomorrow [Saturday].”
Jones, who will break former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw’s record of most appearances for a single nation by winning his 149th Wales cap on Saturday, does know what it is like to beat the All Blacks.
The 36-year-old second row was a member of the British and Irish Lions side that won the second Test 24-21 during a 2017 series in New Zealand that ended all square at 1-1.
But a wary Jones said: “It’s a similar colour jersey but it’s a very different badge. I’m very cautious of making too many comparisons for obvious reasons.”