Preview: Wales v New Zealand

New Zealand will be keen to finish their 2017 campaign in style when they face Wales in what promises to be a thrilling end-of-year Test in Cardiff on Saturday.

The All Blacks have won all their matches on their European tour - against the Barbarians, France and Scotland - but were pushed all the way by a determined Scotland side at Murrayfield last weekend before claiming a 22-17 victory.

That result came at a cost as they lost the services of their inspirational number eight and captain, Kieran Read, as well as second-row Luke Romano, who both sustained injuries.

Despite playing at home, Wales are up against the world champions and Warren Gatland's charges will be overwhelming underdogs.

What makes their task more daunting is the fact that these sides have played each other 33 times since 1905, with 30 victories to the All Blacks and just three wins to Wales, with the last of those registered way back in 1953.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who will captain the side in the absence of Read, feels the fact that Wales haven't beaten his country in more than 50 years has no relevance on this weekend's Test.

"It's one of those things, history's history," he said.

"Once it's happened you can't change it, it's happened. We're always just looking forward to the next game and that's this week.

"We are aware of it to a point but we don't put a lot of time and energy onto that. We're just trying to energise the current group and looking forward to this week. We feel that's the best way to go and have a good performance."

Taking on the All Blacks, who are the game's leaders in attack, is a formidable task and Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards highlighted the enormity of the task at hand, paricularly for him.

"Let's be honest, I have got a pretty tough job this week, probably one of the toughest jobs in world sport to be the defence coach against the All Blacks," he said.

"But you know me, I am up for a challenge. Hopefully on Saturday we can put pressure on through our line speed, but there is a lot more to defending than just having line speed. There are a lot of different aspects to it.

"One of them is what Scotland did very well. They held the ball for 60 percent of the time. They had 60 per cent territory and 60 per cent possession.

"If we can do that, I will be very happy. Even though the All Blacks only had 40 per cent possession, they still scored three tries and were still very dangerous, but obviously starving them of the ball is one way of keeping their attack quiet."

These sides met last year in New Zealand with the All Blacks claiming a 3-0 series whitewash.

The last encounter between the two sides was in Dunedin in June 2016, which the All Blacks won 46-6. The last Test in Cardiff was in November 2014, with New Zealand claiming a 24-16 win.

Players to watch:

For Wales: Tongan-born back-row Taulupe Faletau is a player who will be important to the home side's cause in this encounter. The Bath stalwart is well known to the All Blacks as he was one of the standout performers for the British and Irish Lions during their drawn series with the world champions in New Zealand earlier this year. Faletau has a superb skill-set which allows him to link superbly with his backs and if he builds up a head of steam with ball in hand, he will be difficult to stop. He does not shy from doing the hard work though, especially on defence where he also has a high work-rate. 

For New Zealand: After receiving criticism in New Zealand for several below par performances earlier this year, All Black midfielder Sonny Bill Williams has come to the fore with some fine showings in recent weeks. A sin binning against France in Paris overshadowed an impressive all-round showing from the dual code international and he was arguably the world champions' best attacking player in the narrow win against Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend. Williams be determined to show that he is still a force at the highest level by delivering a polished display in this fixture.

Head-to-head: The duel between the two captains will be a fascinating ones as Kieran Read's absence from the All Blacks' side means both Wales' Alun Wyn Jones and New Zealand's Sam Whitelock will lead their respective countries from the second row. While their decision-making and leadership will be crucial, both are brilliant lineout operators and their prowess in this facet of play should not be underestimated. Whoever comes out on top at the set-piece, will in all likelihood also finish on the winning side.

Previous results:

2016: New Zealand won 46-6 in Dunedin
2016: New Zealand won 36-22 in Wellington
2016: New Zealand won 39-21 in Auckland
2014: New Zealand won 34-16 in Cardiff
2012: New Zealand won 33-10 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 37-25 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 29-10 in Hamilton
2010: New Zealand won 42-9 in Dunedin
2009: New Zealand won 19-12 in Cardiff

Prediction: Although Wales will give a good account of themselves, the world champions will be determined to finish their 2017 campaign in style. New Zealand to win by 12 points.

The teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)