It’s the end of an era. The All Blacks, odds-on favourites for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, must content themselves with being the best of the also-rans.
That’s if they beat Wales, of course.
Steve Hansen bows out as the New Zealand head coach, giving his players an extra incentive to erase last weekend’s defeat from their memories.
It’s a tough ask for any nation to dredge their physical reserves once more but Wales must do that and then some if they are to emulate England’s win over the feted New Zealanders.
For Wales, it is also a time to say goodbye as Warren Gatland takes charge for the last time. He restored pride in the national sport and came close to delivering a first World Cup final.
It wasn’t to be as South Africa deservedly won the semi-final 19 – 16 leaving the Welsh once more as the bridesmaids.
It will take a herculean effort for the Men of Harlech to give Gatland the perfect send-off and win third place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup permutations.
And all evidence suggests that they’ll have to settle for fourth…
New Zealand vs Wales Predictions
It was a match which is seared into the New Zealand rugby psyche. England overwhelmed the much-vaunted All Blacks; it wasn’t just defeat at the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final, it was the manner of that defeat.
The Roses were compact in defence, largely thanks to the immense contributions of Maro Itoje. Any resulting Kiwis attack was broken down in its infancy, with the Barrett brothers starved of ground to cover.
There was a brief period where Hansen’s team looked to be back in business – a flourish that was stamped out by the steely England skipper, Owen Farrell through a series of well-placed kicks.
And just like that, Eddie Jones’ men were onto their first World Cup final since 2003, and the reigning two-time World Cup champions on their way home.
To then have to drag themselves off the floor for a bronze medal battle for the first time since 2003 when they defeated France 43 – 13 in Australia will be a draining experience in itself.
But that just may be the perfect tonic to ensure that the Kiwis don’t go home empty-handed. After such a performance and an early exit from the tournament, nothing other than victory this weekend will matter.
Which is where our New Zealand vs Wales predictions come into play.
Considering the All Blacks face a side that has been asked questions of their defence by teams throughout their campaign, there’s no reason why this game has to be labelled as the match no one wants to play.
None more so evident than in Wales’ semifinal performance against South Africa that saw Welsh hearts broken in the dying moments of the game.
Through Wales’ defensive sloppiness, the SpringBok were able to push through into the final minutes of the game, claiming victory via a 76th minute Handre Pollard kick.
Indeed, the ingredients are ripe for an attacking masterclass on both ends, as both coaches look to depart from their roles, providing extra incentives of a swashbuckling finale.
But it seems as if, as in the last three tournaments, the will to win falls short at the final hurdle. From Sam Warburton’s red card in an agonising 2011 semi-final loss to France, and then an injury-ravaged side’s late defeat by South Africa in 2015’s quarter-final, there may be another chapter to add to this sorry tale come Friday.
New Zealand vs Wales Head to Head
Unsurprisingly, the All Blacks decisively lead the 34-match head-to-head. New Zealand won 31 while Wales have just three victories to their name.
Indeed, Wales haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 1953, a run of 30 (THIRTY) straight defeats. New Zealand hit 30+ points in the last seven meetings.
It’s rare for games to be close. One of the last 10 meetings saw New Zealand win by less than 10 points, 6 between 11 and 20 points with three over 23 points.
This is the fourth World Cup meeting. In 1987, the All Blacks won 49 – 6, in 1995 it was 35 – 9 and in 2003, New Zealand triumphed 55- 37.
New Zealand Team News
The All Blacks make seven changes:
B Barrett; B Smith, Crotty, S Bill-Williams, Ioane; Mo’unga, A Smith; Moody, Coles, Laulala, Retallick, S Barrett, Frizzell, Cane, Read (capt)
Replacements: Coltman, Moli, Ta’avao, Tuipulotu, Todd, Webber, Lienert-Brown, J Barrett.
Wales Team News
Wales make nine changes with some big names missing out through injury. Tomas Francis, George North, Aaron Wainwright, Josh Navidi and Leigh Halfpenny are out.
Amos; Lane, Jonathan Davies, Watkin, Adams; Patchell, T Williams; N Smith, Owens, D Lewis, Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Tipuric, James Davies, Moriarty.
Replacements: E Dee, Carre, W Jones, Ball, Shingler, G Davies, Biggar, Parkes.
New Zealand vs Wales Betting Tips
Even the betting tips are evenly matched, adding precedence to our New Zealand vs Wales predictions.
There’s certainly a redemptive theme about the odds, with the Kiwis wagering as 7/100 favourites. Meanwhile, Gatland’s men operate as 15/2 underdogs.
Punting on the chances of a draw and extra time in line with our New Zealand vs Wales match bets also holds some breadth.
But if there’s anything we know about the reigning World Cup champions, its that they won’t settle for defeat, and surely nothing less than third place.