Wounded Welsh sound warning to ABs

CAPTAINS BACK: Sam Warburton rejoins the side for the test against the All Blacks.
CAPTAINS BACK: Sam Warburton rejoins the side for the test against the All Blacks.

Wales, as they have done for the last 60 years, are talking up their chances against the All Blacks with skipper Sam Warburton declaring they are big underdogs with plenty of bite ahead of this weekend's clash in Cardiff.

The Welsh have been written off on the back of a five-match losing streak, the last two defeats unexpectedly coming at home against Argentina and Samoa.

''I guess there is no pressure on us now because nobody will expect anything next Saturday,'' Warburton said.

''We are going to see who turns up on the day. That is sport, that is why there are underdogs, and underdogs can beat the favourites.

''Wales haven't beaten the All Blacks in 24 matches since 1953. Warburton says that simply gives his team their shot at history.

"'The players appreciate that if they were fortunate enough to beat the All Blacks then it would almost make them immortal.

"I think Wales would go crazy. It would be one of the biggest achievements in the modern game for Welsh rugby because nobody has experienced it for a long time."

Warburton is backing his Six Nations Grand Slam champions to bounce back from the shambles against Samoa and is no doubt comforted by the return of New Zealander Warren Gatland to the head coaching role for this match after his conspicuous absence for the five consecutive losses that included three narrow defeats against the Wallabies in Australia in June.

Warburton was on the bench against Samoa, given a breather before facing the All Blacks.

''There is every chance we can win next Saturday _ I definitely believe that. You have to believe that in every game you go into,'' Warburton said.

''But whether people think that is realistic or not is up to them.

''If I was a fan in the stand, I would be gutted that Wales had lost their last five games, and the players are exactly the same. We want Wales to do well as much as anybody else, so the players will feel that.

''Warburton said this week was about his players getting back into the groove that took them to the World Cup semifinals last year and subsequent success at home as well as being competitive in Australia.

He dismissed the heavy injury toll his squad was carrying, insisting they still had the players to perform much better than they have shown over the last fortnight.

''Players in the side are not going to forget the way we played back at the World Cup, in the Six Nations last season and in the summer [against Australia].''That doesn't just go with a flick of the fingers. It is still the same players _ it's not as if it is a new squad or we've brought new guys in.

''We have to remember the way we played not too long ago, and then do it again.

''We are just going through a rough patch at the moment, but I am more than confident it will come back. As long as we stay positive we can pull it out of the bag.

''Since I have been involved in the starting team, the last 18 months, this has been the toughest time, really.

''It's been five tests on the bounce now we have lost. I haven't experienced that before. It is unusual, and it will be a test now for the boys to see who the tough ones are.

''It's easy when you win and this is a test for a lot of the players and a lot of the leaders of the squad to make sure we put things right.

''We are all in this together. As long as we keep our spirits high, I am sure we will come through it quite quickly.''