A chance to sign off in style - Kayes

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But it didn’t take long for that to change.

 

“Within the space of five, 10 minutes I flipped the script,” Williams said. “We're all driven individuals and we were all very, very disappointed. 

 

“I was disappointed. But a game doesn't define who I am. So then I just took a step back. I shared a few words with Sammy (Cane) and just said how special it's been throughout my career, being able to play with a guy like him.

 

“I saw other players as well and I thought, 'well how good is this, we still get another week in camp together'."

 

It will be the fourth time the All Blacks have played off for third having won the match in 1991 and 2003, and lost in 1999.

 

Wales have been here twice before, beating the Wallabies in 1987 and losing to them in 2011.

Though both sides, of course, would prefer to be playing a day later, there is still plenty riding on this match.

 

It’s the 35th Test between them and the All Blacks will be keen to maintain a winning run that stretches back 30 tests to 1953.

 

But more importantly, as Williams alluded to, this is a chance for the All Blacks to sign off in style and to farewell some important people with a win.

 

Skipper Kieran Read will be playing his final Test and Ben Smith may get his chance to play a final time for the All Blacks too.

 

And it will be coach Steve Hansen’s last Test in charge after 15 years with the All Blacks. 

 

"I owe a lot to Steve,” flanker Sam Cane said.  “He's the guy who selected me for the All Blacks for the first time and he's been my only All Blacks coach. He's a pretty special coach with a real good feel for the group. “He's a little bit more than a coach, he allows the other guys to coach us to execute their roles.

 

"He's a very intuitive coach who's not always on the money, but generally he's not far off it. I consider myself pretty lucky to have been coached by him for eight years. 

 

“He won't want to talk about it being his last game, (but) he's pretty driven on us finishing on a good note."

 

It’s also goodbye for the Kiwi connection in Wales as coach Warren Gatland will be in charge of the Chiefs Super Rugby team next year after 12 years with Wales.

 

He enjoyed success against the All Blacks with the British and Irish Lions in 2017 when they shared the three Test series 1-1, but like an increasing percentage of Welsh rugby followers, he’s yet to enjoy a Wales win against New Zealand.

“The All Blacks are hurting as much as we are,” Gatland said after his team’s semifinal defeat to South Africa.

 

“It is a tough game to play (the bronze match) but we will give it the respect it deserves.

 

“For me, the last game will be hugely monumental as a coach. Apart from the Lions they are not a team I have beaten."

 

Wales have only beaten the All Blacks three times and those wins came in the first four Tests between the two sides.

 

While the All Blacks have enjoyed some big wins against Wales, the Tests are usually highly competitive with the All Blacks often not breaking away till the final quarter.

 

They played a highly entertaining game at the 2003 World Cup when Hansen was coaching Wales and had Shane Williams in the squad as his third halfback.

 

Williams played on the wing against the All Blacks in Sydney and, despite spending the week in bed sick, was outstanding as he set up several tries and scored one himself.

 

It prompted Hansen to say after the match that if Williams was going to play like that after a week in bed he could sleep as much as he wanted.

 

The All Blacks prevailed, 53-37, with that tally by Wales the highest they have ever achieved against the All Blacks, even if it did come in defeat.

 

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, who has achieved so much in his career without beating the All Blacks in a Welsh jersey, admitted that who they were playing would help the players mentally recover from their semifinal loss to South Africa.

 

"My face tells the story, I think,” Jones said after the 16-19 loss.  “Hurting, disappointed but we still have an opportunity to make a bit of history. We have that as a stick and carrot, if you like."


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Jim Kayes

@JimKayes
Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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