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All Blacks expecting Wales game will go down to the wire

By PA
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster says the All Blacks are braced for “a battle of inches” in Saturday’s clash against Wales.

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Foster’s team have arrived in Cardiff following a mixed year, winning the Rugby Championship title but also suffering defeats against Ireland (twice), Argentina and South Africa.

New Zealand, though, have beaten Wales 32 times in succession, and have not lost against them since 1953.

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“They (Wales) are a team that know their game, they play high-tempo,” Foster said.

“They are very confident in what they do and very physical, a lot of strong ball-carrying and also they quite like the aerial game, so there is a good mix.

“It is always a battle of inches against them if you don’t do well in that close-carry area, otherwise you open up real opportunities for the backs and they will be excited to take it.

“We love playing here, and we are really up for what we know will be a really physical encounter.”

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Foster has made wholesale changes from the team that beat Japan last weekend, including starts for the likes of Beauden Barrett, his brother Jordie and Aaron Smith.

It will be Smith’s 113th Test match appearance, taking him above former fly-half Dan Carter as New Zealand’s most-capped back.

Sam Whitelock captains the side due to Sam Cane suffering a tour-ending injury in Japan, with Scott Barrett partnering Whitelock in the second row following Brodie Retallick’s suspension.

There are just three changes from the line-up that defeated Rugby Championship opponents Australia 40-14 in Auckland almost six weeks ago.

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Foster added: “There is a passionate rivalry, there is a lot of respect between the two countries.

“There have been some massive occasions where the games have gone down to the wire, and I remember some very close games over the years.

“We look forward to playing here, it’s a special place with the stadium and the Welsh fans, and the Welsh players play for the right reasons.”

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