Henry wary of Wales
June 13, 2010
New Zealand head coach Graham Henry previously coached Wales © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry is expecting Wales provide a sterner test for his side next week than 14-man Ireland managed in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The All Blacks play the first of two Tests against Warren Gatland's Wales side in Dunedin next Saturday after putting a record 66-28 score on the Irish in the June series opener. Ireland were without No.8 Jamie Heaslip from the 15th minute after he was red-carded for kneeing All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw - an incident which has subsequently seen him banned for five weeks and out of the remainder of Ireland's tour.
But New Zealand made the most of their numerical advantage - it quickly became two when Ronan O'Gara was sent to the sin-bin for hauling back Cory Jane off the ball - racking up the points to lead 38-0 before replacement lock Dan Tuohy finally got the Irish on the board with a try on debut.
"Yeah probably (Wales will be a tougher test)," said former Wales coach Henry. "It's hard to come from the other side of the world and play a Test match in a week. It takes a while to settle down. The Irish did that in the second half. I think they are very similar sides. They've had similar records in the last few years and both have quality footballers. I think it will be a difficult Test match in Dunedin."
Henry conceded a raft of replacements had probably not aided the All Blacks' cause as the intensity and accuracy of the first half slipped and Ireland added some respectability to the scoreboard. But he was adamant that bringing on debutants Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito and Aaron Cruden and giving the other substitutes a chance to prove their worth was the right way forward.
"Some of this is about playing as well as we can and some of it is about giving players the opportunity to prove that they should be here," Henry said. "There is no point in picking a player in the 26 and not playing him and not picking him for the Tri-Nations.
"People look at it and say you made a lot of replacements and upset the rhythm and they may be right. But we've got two jobs here. One is to try to develop rugby players at this level and they can't develop unless they play. And two, is to see if they are good enough for further selection and you can't make that decision unless they play either. Because we played pretty well in the first half and the Irish self-destructed to some extent we were give that opportunity."
New Zealand finished off last year by going through Europe without conceding a try but Henry felt under the new law interpretations, which had speeded up the game, defending was a far trickier proposition. "Defence is more difficult in today's game than it was last year - much more difficult," he said. "The game is a better game of football. It's faster. The ball is regenerated at ruck time quicker and that puts pressure on defences. You can't compare defences in 2010 with 2009."
That would not stop him from demanding an improvement in that area though. "This is the first time these guys have defended together as a team. They will learn a lot from that," he said. "I think it's a lot about making sure you do the right thing at first phase at the scrum and the lineout first and then you've got some control."
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