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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 12:30 GMT
Bigger and better than NZ
Sean Davies
BBC Sport

Jonah Lomu in action against Wales in 1995
Wales made some startling claims before meeting the All Blacks
If Wales need an example of how not to handle the build-up to their Group D decider with New Zealand on Sunday, they need look no further than the countries' last World Cup encounter in 1995.

There is a little-known African proverb that says: "If you have to approach a panther, don't provoke it."

Well, before Wales took on this particular All Black beast they prodded it, poked it, wafted kit-e-kat in front of its cage and called its mother a moggy.

Wales' preparations for the tournament had been disastrous enough, a Five Nations whitewash meaning that captain Ieuan Evans and coach Alan Davies were relieved of their duties just eight weeks before the squad headed for South Africa.

Cardiff's Australian coach Alec Evans was brought in at the last minute, and he promptly appointed Blue and Blacks skipper Mike Hall as Wales captain and wheeled in a host of tried and trusted players from his club.

We (Wales) are bigger than New Zealand, we're faster and more skilful
Wales' 1995 team manager Geoff Evans
"It didn't go down well in west Wales," remembers Hall. "We came in at a difficult point and in such a short period of time there was no chance for everyone to buy into what we were trying to do."

The first group games saw New Zealand blow Ireland away 43-19 with their exciting new brand of perpetual-motion, 15-man rugby.

Welsh morale was raised by an opening 57-10 victory over group minnows Japan, but with the management team trying to build confidence in the squad bravado was taken several mighty leaps too far.

To counter the All Black runners, Wales named a hefty pack featuring lock Gareth Llewellyn in his first back-row start as blindside flanker, and it was left to team manager Geoff Evans to give the defining comment of the pre-match press conferences.

"We (Wales) are bigger than New Zealand, we're faster and more skilful," he said, in headlines that quickly screamed across the world.

And Evans did not stop there.

"I had been sleeping in my room when Geoff came in to tell me with a laugh that he'd just kicked New Zealand off the training ground because their time was up," recalls an incredulous Hall.

"I just remember thinking, 'Oh no, what are we going to be in for out on the pitch'."

Mike Hall
Hall feared the worst after Evans' outburst
The stage was set for a mauling in front of 45,000 fans at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, but, remarkably, Evans' tactics may even have helped.

Rather than adopting the all-out attack policy that had dumbfounded Ireland, the All Blacks turned to a tighter, more traditional game, their forwards looking to punish the Welsh.

"It was a very good All Black side, but we competed well, especially in the first half," said Hall.

"Before the game Ieuan Evans said something like: 'Fear is a commodity that we can use'. That set us up for the start.

"They didn't give us the hammering that they handed to England in the semi-final."

England's destroyer Jonah Lomu was something of a peripheral figure in the match.

"I didn't really get near Lomu and he didn't see a lot of the ball," said Hall. "But he did pop one inside for Josh Kronfeld to score in the corner."

Welsh success against the All Blacks is relative, and the men in red were pleased to get away with conceding just three tries.

MATCH STATS
New Zealand 34
Tries: W Little, M Ellis, J Kronfeld. Cons: A Mehrtens (2). Pens: Mehrtens (4). DG: Mehrtens.
Wales 9
Pens: N Jenkins (2). DG: Jenkins.
Att: 45,000
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The clearly riled All Blacks forwards had a parting message for Geoff Evans.

"Sean Fitzpatrick came up to me after the game and said: 'Make sure you thank your team manager for providing our pre-match team talk'," said Hall.

The All Blacks would return to their carefree style in the games to come, setting a new world record with a 145-17 win over Japan before blasting Scotland and England aside on their route to the final.

All that remained for the bigger, faster and more skilful Welsh was a tame 23-24 loss to Ireland and exit at the group stages.


New Zealand: GM Osborne; JT Lomu (rep. EM Rush), FE Bunce, WK Little, MCG Ellis; AP Mehrtens, GTM Bachop; CW Dowd, SBT Fitzpatrick (capt), OM Brown, ID Jones, BP Larsen, JW Joseph, MR Brewer, JA Kronfeld.

Wales: A Clement; IC Evans, MR Hall (capt), G Thomas, WT Proctor; NR Jenkins, RN Jones; RL Evans, JM Humphreys, JD Davies, D Jones, G Prosser, GO Llewellyn, HT Taylor, AM Bennett.

Referee: Ed F Morrison (England).





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