Gatland: Wales must have no fear

New Zealander Warren Gatland accepts there is “an aura and mystique” about the All Blacks - but he wants Wales to smash down any psychological barrier tomorrow.

The Wales head coach believes his reigning RBS 6 Nations champions have nothing to be intimidated by.

And winning the mind games might just help Wales in their ultimate aim of ending a 55-year, 19-Test wait for glory against New Zealand.

Gatland said: “There is that aura and mystique about them, but if our guys were in the gym against their guys, we are bigger than them physically.

“Myself and Rob Howley (Wales attack coach) were sitting there at the game between Ireland and New Zealand last Saturday.

“We were only six or seven rows from the front, and the All Blacks substitutes were warming up.

“Rob turned around and said to me ‘they are not that big, are they?’ I’ve been saying this for a while, but it is not until you see it for yourself.

“And it is about just trying to transfer that over to the players.

“There are a number of (New Zealand) players that I’ve coached and know some of their strengths and weaknesses, and players I’ve coached against in the last few years.

“The one thing you’ve got to do is respect them. You have got to have enormous respect for who they are and what they’ve achieved.

“But you have got to make sure that is not just outright adulation and putting them too much on a pedestal.

“If you do that, you are in for a very long day at the office.

“There are things they are good at, but there are also aspects of the game where there are a certain number of weaknesses.”

Wales took New Zealand to the wire in 2004 before losing an epic Millennium Stadium encounter 26-25, but it proved a rare beacon amid the gloom.

In posting those 19 successive wins, the All Blacks have racked up a total of 654 points and 86 tries.

It is little wonder that one leading bookmaker has installed them as 10/1-on favourites to continue that sequence this weekend.

Wales, despite winning two Six Nations Grand Slam titles in the last four seasons, have failed dismally to find a successful formula against major southern hemisphere opposition.

Since rugby union went professional 13 years ago, they can reflect on just two victories from 32 attempts against either New Zealand, South Africa or Australia.

Gatland added: “We’ve got to be accurate in our own game. We need to start a bit better than we have done in some of these big games - that’s pretty crucial.

“And it is also about what we create within the team. I want to make sure that externally there is nothing negative conveyed to the players.

“The record of the northern hemisphere teams, apart from England up to 2003, hasn’t been good enough against any of the southern hemisphere teams.

“We’ve got to start beating these teams to earn that respect.”

Gatland has retained the side beaten 20-15 by South Africa a fortnight ago, although he admitted areas like the back-row - where skipper Ryan Jones packs down - half-backs and wings came under close selection scrutiny.

There is a genuine belief in the Wales camp though, that they can give New Zealand an all-too-rare fright on their European travels.

The bookies might not agree, but if Wales can manufacture sustained bouts of front-foot rugby, opportunities to hurt the All Blacks should arise.

Gatland said: “The thing with the All Blacks - we’ve been stressing it this week - is from World Cup to World Cup they are easily the best team in the world and very rarely get tested.

“When they are in front and playing with confidence, there is no-one who can touch them.

“But if you put them under a bit of pressure and the Test match gets into an arm wrestle, that is when you see cracks.

“We’ve seen that in World Cups. If you want to beat them, you’ve got to get them into an arm wrestle and see if you can expose the cracks.

“If you can’t do that, then potentially it can be a blow-out against you.”

Ospreys fly-half James Hook, meanwhile, looks set to take his place as planned on the Wales bench tomorrow.

Hook suffered a knee injury during the 34-13 victory over Canada last Friday, but he took a full part in Wales’ workout at the Millennium Stadium today.

Gatland said: “We are very confident he will be okay to take his place on the subs’ bench. He was running all right today.”