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All Blacks' Graham Henry's 'hands off' message to Wales

Scrum V guide to New Zealand

New Zealand coach Graham Henry says he has little sympathy for Wales opposite number Warren Gatland's complaint about overseas stars leading Wales' regions.

"There's an easy fix - don't employ them," said Henry, Gatland suggesting there was a leadership void in Wales.

"Leave them home [in New Zealand]. We could do with them. Tell Warren that."

Henry, a former Wales coach, said he expects a sterner test from Gatland's team in the first Test in Dunedin than from Ireland, who his side beat 66-28.

"Yeah probably [Wales will be a tougher test]," said Henry after his side despatched the 14-man Irish in New Plymouth on Saturday.

Ospreys back-rower Jerry Collins (centre) was a key All Black during Wales' last tour of New Zealand in 2003
Henry has lamented the loss of 'middle-management' players

"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 [that Ireland and Wales] 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."

Wales arrived down under at the end of last week for their two-Test tour, starting with the final international to be played at the old Carisbrook ground and ending at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton on 26 June.

The men in red have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and have never triumphed over them in New Zealand.

Their last victory over one of the Tri Nations superpowers in the southern hemisphere was in New Zealand, though, Wales beating Australia 22-21 in Rotorua in the third-place play-off for the 1987 World Cup.

Wales' solitary victory on the home turf of one of the Tri-Nations giants was the 19-16 triumph over the Wallabies at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1969.

New Zealander Gatland has highlighted the presence of overseas players in the Welsh regional game as one of the weaknesses in the country.

Gatland demands decisive players

"They [our players] are being led and dominated [in the regions] and you see them in groups and see who's controlling the game," said Gatland last week.

"Often it is those experienced southern hemisphere players [controlling] and they [our players] come out of that environment and come into ours.

"They turn around and look around and say: "Where's Jerry Collins, Marty Holah?' or "where's David Lyons or Xavier Rush?"

"They haven't got those players here, or Ben Blair or Casey Laulala."

Henry's ire will have been raised because he has lamented the loss of what he called "middle-management" - experienced players who have headed overseas when they believe All Blacks selection is beyond them.

Those departures have left a lack of depth in New Zealand rugby, which was evident during this year's Super 14.

The All Blacks, who are due to name their team to face Wales on Tuesday, blooded six new players against Ireland and Henry insists that his side remain well behind world champions South Africa as the world's best side.

"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," said Henry.

Any New Zealand team will be up there with the best in the world

Wales full-back Lee Byrne

"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 [against Ireland] 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 given that opportunity.

"We got beaten on territory. We got beaten on possession, but we didn't get beaten on the scoreboard so they might have learned a lot from that."

Meanwhile, Wales full-back Lee Byrne is adamant that there is no such thing as a weak All Blacks team.

"They've lost a lot of players to overseas, but any New Zealand team will be up there with the best in the world," said the Ospreys and British and Irish Lions 15.

"You give them a sniff and they'll take a try. We will have to be at the top of our game, otherwise there could be big score-lines."

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see also
New Zealand 66-28 Ireland
12 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Gatland blasts lack of leadership
09 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Phillips determined before Tests
11 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Wales' NZ tour in photos
26 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
All Blacks magic: New Zealand rugby
21 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Country profile: New Zealand
28 Nov 11 |  Country profiles
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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