Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 24 News List

All Blacks not taking Wales too lightly

AP , SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

After cruising through its first three matches racking up an average of 70 points a game, New Zealand is ready for a real test when it meets Wales Sunday in the Rugby World Cup's final pool match.

"Mentally there's been a step-up in the approach the guys are taking," All Black captain Reuben Thorne said.

"This week obviously the quality of the opposition will be higher than it has been," he added. "It will be more traditional test match rugby. We've been throwing it around a lot recently but we'll have to be a lot more accurate than what we have been."

But the opposition may not be as tough as New Zealand thinks, with Wales, already assured of a quarterfinal berth, resting key players for the match at Sydney's Olympic stadium -- apparently conceding defeat to a team it has not beaten since 1953.

If Wales loses, it likely will face a quarterfinal showdown with England.

The All Blacks are strengthened by the return of flying winger Joe Rokocoko, who has recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered in the All Blacks opening 70-7 victory over Italy.

Also back in the starting lineup after a groin injury is center Aaron Mauger, who has scored 38 points in his 15 international appearances.

Mauger, making his first World Cup appearance, did not expect any trouble returning to the top flight after a long injury lay off.

"It's a pretty easy side to slot back into when you've got the caliber of the players I have around me," he said.

And while New Zealand has posted monster scores against Italy, Tonga and Canada, Wales struggled and is looking to improve.

"We have those three wins under our belt but as a team we will be measured on our performance against the All Blacks," team captain Colin Charvis said during the buildup to the game.

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