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All Blacks want to hang on to record

By Mark Geenty 06/11/2009 04:49:20 PM Comments (0)

Fresh from building an imposing record against the Wallabies, the All Blacks are determined to preserve their winning streak against Wales, determined not to be known as the side who let it slip.

As much as Sunday's (4.15am AEDT) clash against the Welsh at Millennium Stadium is about the confident hosts trying to end what local media dubs '56 years of hurt', the All Blacks will fiercely guard their 20-Test streak.

While the Springboks have had the All Blacks' number this year, and France will be confident of a November victory in Marseille after their June boilover, Wales carry a heavy psychological burden.

The All Blacks saw evidence of the mental side of continuous defeats this year with their oldest foes the Wallabies, who they beat for a seventh consecutive time in Tokyo.

"I'm not sure if the history weighs too much, but you definitely take confidence and your expectations are that you can do it," All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read said.

"In their minds, if their group of players haven't won against an All Blacks side, if it's weighing on their minds, then it's a positive for us."

Read is among six changes to the All Blacks' starting 15 from Tokyo and, aside from personal pride in maintaining a starting spot and rebuilding a shaky year for the team, the Welsh winning streak is a handy aside.

"Definitely, we know the All Blacks haven't lost for over 50 years and you don't want to be part of that team that loses," Read said.

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen has been there before as Wales coach and insisted the hoodoo was no barrier if the tourists weren't on their game.

"They've got a lot of experience. It's no different to a drought, there's always one day closer to it raining. One day they will win, let's hope it's not this weekend."

A year ago here, Wales led 9-6 at halftime. The All Blacks soaked up the pressure then delivered 23 unanswered points via tries to Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu.

Under coach Warren Gatland, Wales have 12 members of that starting side back while the All Blacks have just seven returnees, with the missing brigade including Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams and Richard Kahui (all injured) and suspended duo Sitiveni Sivivatu and Tony Woodcock.

Wales are missing three key injured men: fullback Lee Byrne, halfback Mike Phillips and prop Adam Jones.

Their go-to men include Lions five-eighths Stephen Jones and Jamie Roberts, captain and No. 8 Ryan Jones, prop Gethin Jenkins and prolific tryscoring winger Shane Williams.

Said All Blacks captain Richie McCaw: "They come out with a lot of passion and they hoe into things. I can't see that being too different this time.

"They had us under a bit of pressure (last year) but you always believe if you get hold of the ball and get at the right end of the field you can put pressure back on them."

Dan Carter only trained briefly on Thursday as he recovers from a badly bruised calf muscle but was confident of taking the field at No 10.

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