New Zealand face ‘strongest’ Wales team

Rhys Webb is tackled by Brodie Retallick in 2014

Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb is tackled by New Zeakand lock Brodie Retallick in 2014

Former captain Martyn Williams believe the “strongest” touring team in Wales’ history can beat World Cup holders New Zealand in June.

The teams play three Tests, with Wales also facing England at Twickenham in a warm-up game on 29 May.

Wales have not beaten the All Blacks in 26 attempts since 1953.

But Williams said: “It’s as good a chance as we’ve ever had of going down there and winning and I really do believe that.”


Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward talks to Gavin Henson and Martyn Williams (R) in New Zealand in 2005

Between 2002 and 2010 Williams played and lost all eight of his chances to help Wales beat New Zealand.

He was also on the wrong side of the hammerings dished out by the All Blacks to Sir Clive Woodward’s 2005 British and Irish Lions tourists.

But with 2015 World Cup winners Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith among those to have ended their Test careers, Williams sees an opportunity for Warren Gatland’s Wales.

When he surveyed Wales’ squad, Williams was surprised not to see either uncapped Scarlets open-side James Davies or his Cardiff Blues rival Ellis Jenkins picked as back-up to captain Sam Warburton.

“Then I looked through the squad and thought that has got to be, in my living memory, the strongest Welsh touring team ever to leave these shores,” he said.

“I really think that.

“When you look at the number of caps, the quality, the British Lions, the experience – there’s not many injuries.

“There’s a few going out there carrying injuries, but it’s not like back in the day where half your first team isn’t going out because they need operations etc – that’s not there.”

And while believing either Davies or Jenkins would make the trip as understudy to the only recognised open-side in Warburton, Williams has faith in New Zealander Gatland’s decision.

“I don’t think it’s a risk,” said Williams.

“People criticise Warren Gatland and his management team sometimes about the style of play.

“I think the one thing they always – or 90% of the time get right – is selection.”

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