Welsh ask if 2006 All Blacks are the best     17 Nov 2006

The 40-21 win over England and the 47-3 demolition of France last weekend had Western Mail writer Simon Thomas pondering.

There were plenty of sides in contention and he cited Brian Lochore's 1967 side, the World Cup winners of 1987, Graham Mourie's Grand Slam team and the 1997 side.

This was without mentioning the 1924-25 side or even the 1905-06 Originals.

Thomas noted: "And just last year, we saw the Henry and Hansen bunch that earned a second Grand Slam, using two entirely different teams to beat Wales and Ireland by 38 points on successive weekends."

Now they had a side that Thomas said was arguably stronger than that of last year.

In asking just how good the All Blacks of the 2006 vintage were he spoke to Welsh captain Stephen Jones after last weekend's victory over France.

"That has to be up there with the best New Zealand side I have seen," Jones said.

"Their defence was outstanding. It was very well organised and they hit the French on the break on numerous occasions.

"They are just so ruthless. As soon as they get behind you, especially with the gas they've got, they are very clinical."

However, rather than be put off by the challenge Wales will face, Jones is relishing the task ahead of his side which ranks as representative of the earliest rivalry in All Black history.

"We know if we keep on improving, come next week it's going to be a great challenge and everyone is looking forward to it," he said.

Wales faces Canada this weekend after having drawn with Australia and beating the Pacific Islanders over the last two weekends.

Jones said the New Zealand match would be a test for where Wales was in its game.

"It will be the ultimate test of where we are because New Zealand are the benchmark at the moment," he said.