All Blacks ready for 'big league' after testing Welsh workout

New Zealand 29 Wales 10
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The Independent Online

The All Blacks should know everything they need to know about pride going before a fall, having landed splat on their silver-ferned posteriors at every World Cup since winning the first in 1987. But with the entire country turning its collective mind towards next year's global gathering on home soil, are the national team flirting with presumptions of greatness once again?

Steve Hansen, one of their senior coaches, seems to think so. After his side stumbled to victory over a rookie Welsh side, he said: "We can step up into the big boys' league now, and we can go in with some confidence if we keep things smart and simple and people do their jobs."

Big boys' league? By that, he meant the forthcoming Tri-Nations featuring Australia and South Africa. By implication , he also meant that Ireland and Wales were small by comparison. Given the way the Welsh made their hosts suffer at the set piece, it was an interesting put-down. With Daniel Carter kicking points in his sleep and the wing Cory Jane always a threat, the All Blacks stayed in control but the energy Wales brought to their work late on was something to behold and led to a Jamie Roberts try.

Unfortunately Lee Byrne, who late in the first half tipped over Tom Donnelly and saw Wales slip from 3-10 to 3-19 during his time in the sin bin, failed to gather Aaron Cruden's toe-poke towards the line, allowing the sub outside-half to claim his first Test try. "I'm pretty gutted about that last score," confessed the Wales coach, Warren Gatland. "One try apiece and 22-10? We'd have been happy with that. It was a step forward, the players showed real pride."

New Zealand: Tries Jane, Cruden; Conversions Carter, Weepu; Penalties Carter 5. Wales: Try Roberts; Conversion S Jones; Penalty Halfpenny.

New Zealand M Muliaina; C Jane, R Kahui, B Stanley, Z Guildford; D Carter, J Cowan; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, N Tialata, B Thorn, T Donnelly, J Kaino, R McCaw, K Read. Replacements O Franks for Woodcock, 22-27 and for Tialata, 55; P Weepu for Cowan, 48; A Thompson for Donnelly, 48; R Ranger for Stanley, 55; Tialata for Woodcock 57-60; S Whitelock for Read 65; A De Malmanche for Mealamu 74; A Cruden for Carter 74.

Wales L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Davies, J Roberts, T Prydie; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, A W Jones, J Thomas, G Thomas, R Jones.Replacements R McCusker for R Jones, 27; D Jones for Davies, 57; C Mitchell for A Jones, 65; S Jones for Biggar, 67; R Rees for Phillips, 69; H Bennett for M Rees, 69; W Harries for Prydie, 72.

Referee J Kaplan (South Africa).