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Wales not here to make up numbers - Gatland

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    04 Jun 2016     Getty Images

With so much attention on the lost experience of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock, Gatland said there was still 'real quality' in the squad selected.

What there would be in the All Blacks side was players who hadn't spent the same amount of time together in the same combinations that stood New Zealand in good stead for so long.

"If that's perceived as weakness take it how you like, but there is never any weak All Black team as far as I'm concerned," Gatland, a former All Black himself, told media in Auckland on Friday.

"What they achieved in winning their second World Cup in a row is pretty exceptional but what I admired about them was that they never panicked. If you look at a lot of those games they were either behind at halftime or with 10-15 minutes to go and that experience and belief in their structure and systems, got them across the line," he said.

"We felt the brunt of that a couple of years ago when we led them with about 69 minutes on the clock and they scored a couple of tries in the last 10 minutes to win.

"That's probably the level they've gone to in terms of they've not panicked, trusted themselves and trusted they're going to get across the line.

"That often comes with a lot of players being together a long time," he said.

Gatland said he had heard the talk of the All Blacks taking their game to another level but took some time to achieve as well.

Wales were expecting the All Blacks to field Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden in the inside backs with Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa in the midfield. Julian Savea and Waisake Naholo would probably be on the wings although that depended if they wanted Israel Dagg at fullback with Smith on the wing.

Gatland said it was going to be tough for Wales but they were not here 'just to make up the numbers'.

"And we're not here to start the rebuilding phase of New Zealand rugby either, after a lot of experienced players going," he said.

"We have got some experience in our side and some players that have been playing in France and have come back to give us that experience, in Jonathan Davies and Luke Charteris," he said.