Wales React to New Zealand Squad Announcement

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The New Zealand squad was one awaited on with baited breath in Wales, but is it a squad to be feared or loved? Robert Rees looks closely at the 2016 side.

New Zealand Squad Announcement

There are six new caps named among the 32-man playing squad. With this group also includes two extra injury replacements; Tom Franklin and TJ Perenara, to cover Sam Whitelock (Hamstring) and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (returning from a broken hand). The new members in the camp – Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Elliot Dixon and Ofa Tu’ungafasi – will be sure to get their share of game time against the Welsh over the June series and will definitely be thrown into the ‘deep end’.

One thing for sure is that any player in an All Blacks squad is a good player, and they will all pose a threat to Wales.

The Northern summer tour will see a three match test series pitting the international sides against each other, with Wales playing the Chiefs in a friendly on Tuesday 14 June, after the first test in Auckland. This match in Hamilton will be a good chance to warm-up players who haven’t had much game time, and prepare for the next two tests, of which Wales will hope to win one of.

Expect to see most of the new names in the New Zealand side play the first test and all will be used over the series; barring injury. Once again it is a strong team and Wales will have their work cut out to have a chance of winning any tests, but can look forward to going downunder against perhaps the best ‘Kiwi’ squad, after the retirement of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu. This does not make it any easier though with the capable hands of Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden and Malakai Fekitoa to fill their boots. Very good replacements to put it lightly.

Wales React to New Zealand Squad Announcement

The summer tours are looked on favorably by most here in Wales, as it gives Welsh rugby a chance to show what they can do against the ‘best in the world’. To see how well the side has developed year-0n-year. There is no doubt these tests are a relationship tool as well, because if Wales play New Zealand downunder, they are more likely to reciprocate and tour in Wales–thus bringing in more cash for a union which has a tight budget, in a modern game demanding more input of money than ever before.

However, despite the massive monetary benefits realized by a summer tour, this test series has come at an inappropriate time it feels, with the recent Rugby World Cup on top of a very busy season, and not less than a year away, a Lions tour filling in next summer. This leaves the players involved with no rest time, and increases the chance of injury. Players such as Alun Wyn Jones are playing a huge number games a season and for him, usually for the full 80 minutes. Against England in the Six Nations he carried an injury with him and so from a player welfare perspective, surely these tours need to be more strategically placed.

For the likes of Sam Warburton (barring injury), Jamie Roberts and George North, this is a chance to play the side the Lions will be playing against, and so if they become effective this summer, surely those men take home an advantage and with a positive performance by one; or all players, have one foot on the plane with the British and Irish Lions team 2017.

Right now, there is a positive feeling in Wales and many people are hopeful that the side can take one win away from this summer and possibly end the 63 year wait for a victory over the All Blacks. Is this hope for a win more hope than expectation? Probably, but if they travel to Auckland in the first test with a realistic expectation of winning on tour this summer, then Warren Gatland’s side can win the first test.

Wales certainly have the players, but need to improve their offload game of which they have not performed well in against the big three in recent times [New Zealand, Australia and South Africa] ‘Warrenball’ must also stop or vary, to have any chance of victory as it has become too predictable and easy to defend against, especially for a side of the class of the All Blacks.

The only hope of a series win Wales may have; unlikely as it ever may be, is to win the first test, beat the Chiefs and go into the second test on a two match winning streak whilst carrying through momentum. Do that, and the Welsh dragon will breath fire again.

TEST SCHEDULE IN NEW ZEALAND:

Saturday, 11 June

New Zealand v Wales (Eden Park, Auckland) kick-off 08:35 British Summer Time

Tuesday, 14 June

Chiefs v Wales (FMG Waikato Stadium, Hamilton) kick-off 07:35 BST

Saturday, 18 June

New Zealand v Wales (Westpac Stadium, Wellington) 08:35 BST

Saturday, 25 June

New Zealand v Wales (Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin) 08:35 BST

The tests are sure to be an exciting series and one which will hopefully grasp more fans into the sport. It comes at a crucial time for the Welsh players, with the Lions tour around the corner next year. Either way, it will be a brilliant series to watch and perhaps one for the Welsh history books.

Who will have the most wins this summer against top 3 southern hemisphere nations? in LastWordOnSports’s Hangs on LockerDome

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