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Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Friday, 26 November 2010

Wales coach Warren Gatland explains captaincy choice

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 27 November Kick-off: 1715 GMT Coverage: Watch on BBC TWO and the BBC Sport website; listen on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and Radio 5 Live; report and reaction on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Warren Gatland and Matthew Rees
Warren Gatland and Matthew Rees at the press conference to announce the Wales team against New Zealand

Coach Warren Gatland insists the decision to make Matthew Rees captain against New Zealand was made before the Fiji game.

Ryan Jones was skipper during the dismal 16-16 draw giving away a crucial penalty at the end.

But Gatland says the move to replace Jones with Rees was not made immediately after the Fiji clash

"The decision wasn't made after the Fijian match. I'd spoken to Matthew about this last week," he insisted.

"I'd spoken to some senior players. I informed the Ospreys last week that this was going to happen.

"I decided to make the announcement in the changing room after the [Fiji] game. We were so impressed with the way Matthew had led the team in the first two games."

Gatland came in for a lot of criticism for taking the captaincy off Jones, with former Wales skipper saying he had made the Ospreys forward a scapegoat for the poor display against Fiji.

But Gatland insists that was wrong.

"We felt it was time to make a change and it wasn't a knee-jerk reaction straight after the Fiji match as people are trying to portray it was."

Rees knows he will have a difficult brief against a New Zealand side on the brink of their third northern hemisphere grand slam in five years.


"We are disappointed from the Fiji game, but we know we are a lot better than that, and there is some players coming back," said the Scarlets skipper.

"The boys have taken some confidence from the summer tour [to New Zealand]. We know we can match them up front. It's just important our discipline is key and we don't give many turnovers.

"The All Blacks can punish you from anywhere and the biggest test for us this weekend is cutting down errors. You can't afford to switch off for one second because they will run the ball from anywhere."

And Gatland has told his Wales players to play for the full 80 minutes against New Zealand on Saturday.

Wales are still looking for their first win of the autumn after two defeats t and a dismal 16-16 draw to Fiji.

Gatland has made nine changes for the clash against the All Blacks, who have beaten England, Scotland and Ireland.

"We have got to concentrate for that full 80 minutes. It's not a 60-minute game. It's not a 70 minute game," warned Gatland.

The New Zealander, who is looking for his first win in seven games, highlighted the example of Ireland's defeat to the All Blacks last weekend.

You just can't afford to have any lapse of concentration for any length of time

Warren Gatland

The Irish put in a good performance but still lost by 20 points going down 38-18 in Dublin.

"We saw last week with the Irish-All Black game that 10 minute period when the All Blacks can score two or three tries," added gatland.

"You just can't afford to have any lapse of concentration for any length of time.

"A couple of minutes before half-time and 10 minutes after half tine the game had gone away from Ireland.

"We have experienced that on a couple of occasions against the All Blacks as well.

"So that has been the focus: that we do full concentrate for the 80 minutes and don't allow any lapses of concentration or levels of intensity to [drop off].

Gatland is sure that resting some key players like Rees and Alun Wyn Jones against Fiji have paid dividends.

"We rested a lot of players and the players who we did rest are feeling pretty fresh and sharp. We had some guys do some pbs [personal bests] which was fantastic," he said.

"We have seen the last couple of years that the All Blacks have got stronger as the autumn campaigns has gone on and finished really strongly.

"It is going to be a massive challenge for us to contain their improvement.

"The players are desperate to want to do well and we have worked hard this week and hopefully make sure we go out there and give a really good performance."

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); George North (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), Tom James (Blues); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).
Replacements: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Blues), Martyn Williams (Blues), Richie Rees (Blues), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys).

New Zealand: M Muliaina (Chiefs); I Toeava (Blues), C Smith (Hurricanes), SB Williams (Crusaders), H Gear (Hurricanes); D Carter (Crusaders), J Cowan (Highlanders); T Woodcock (Blues), K Mealamu (Blues), O Franks (Crusaders), B Thorn (Crusaders), S Whitelock (Crusaders), J Kaino (Blues), R McCaw (Crusaders, capt), K Read (Crusaders).
Replacements: A Hore (Hurricanes), J Afoa (Blues), A Boric (Blues), D Braid (Queensland Reds), A Ellis (Crusaders), S Donald (Chiefs), M Nonu (Hurricanes).

Referee: Allan Lewis (Ireland)

Ryan Jones

Highlights - Wales 16-16 Fiji

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see also
Wales 25-37 New Zealand
27 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales 'must repay coach's faith'
26 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Shock Wales recall for wing James
25 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Williams takes Nonu's NZ position
25 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Carter on verge of points record
23 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales must ease hurt - Phillips
23 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Gatland created scapegoat - Jones
22 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Players blew 'last' Wales chance
22 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales half-backs frustrate Howley
20 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Jones takes blame for Fiji draw
19 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales 16-16 Fiji
19 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
All Blacks magic: New Zealand rugby
21 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union

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