Wales can upset odds against the All Blacks, insists Byrne

The form book may insist otherwise but Lee Byrne believes Wales, for all their recent struggles, can inflict a rare defeat on New Zealand this evening and deny the All Blacks a seemingly inevitable Grand Slam.

It is an interesting view, given that Wales return to the Millennium Stadium just eight days after failing to beat Fiji, while the All Blacks were just a missed Dan Carter conversion away from putting 40 points on Ireland in Dublin.

The fixture's history can hardly be ignored, either. New Zealand have beaten Wales the last 23 times they have met, with 11 times in the professional era, including six wins in Cardiff. The All Blacks were also undefeated in taking the 2010 Tri-Nations title.

Wales, in the starkest of contrasts, have toppled only Scotland and Italy this year. Even so Byrne, who made his Test debut against New Zealand five years ago, still fancies their chances of upsetting the 1-33 favourites.

"We have been written off this week, probably more so than ever before," he admitted. "But I know the strength and character of the boys, and I know we are capable of doing it. Being labelled the underdogs just gives us great motivation to go out and put up a good performance. We are capable, it's just believing in ourselves. If you can't get up for playing against the All Blacks, there is no point playing rugby. They are the best team in the world.

"Believe it or not, training has been the best it has been this week. Playing the All Blacks at a full Millennium Stadium, there is no better feeling in rugby. This weekend we want to put things right for everybody."

The full-back Byrne is one of six survivors in the starting line-up from the drawn debacle with Fiji, a list that includes the Ospreys forward Ryan Jones, who many pundits believe was made a scapegoat for that miserable result and performance. Jones led Wales last Friday but gave away an injury-time penalty which cost victory.

The national coach, Warren Gatland, then told the players that the hooker Matthew Rees would resume the captaincy against New Zealand before informing the media – all within an hour of the final whistle. Gatland later rejected the scapegoat accusations, stating: "The [captaincy] decision wasn't made after the Fijian match.

"I had spoken to Matthew about this last week, I had spoken to some senior players, I informed the Ospreys before the match this was going to happen, and I decided to make the announcement in the changing room after the game. It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction after the Fiji match, as people are trying to portray it."

Wales: Byrne; North, Shanklin, Hook, James; Jones, Phillips; Jenkins, Rees (capt), A Jones, B Davies, A-W Jones, Lydiate, Warburton, R Jones. Replacements Bennett, James, Thomas, Powell, Williams, Rees, Bishop

New Zealand: Muliaina; Toeava, Smith, Williams, Gear; Carter, Cowan; Woodcock, Mealamu, Franks, Thorn, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw (capt), Read. Replacements Hore, Afoa, Boric, Braid, Ellis, Donald, Nonu.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory