The All Blacks coaches have followed the example of Welsh counterpart Warren Gatland and reverted to their top side for the rugby test here at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The only injury-enforced change from the side who started in the 22-3 defeat of Ireland in Dublin last weekend sees Richard Kahui named at centre in place of Conrad Smith, who is struggling with a long-term groin strain.
There is one area of conjecture to be cleared up later today after loosehead prop Tony Woodcock faces an International Rugby Board (IRB) judicial hearing in Dublin.
He was cited for punching Ireland hooker Rory Best, an offence he was penalised and sinbinned for during the match.
Doubt over Woodcock’s availability has seen him bracketed with Neemia Tialata and John Afoa.
Tialata has also been troubled by illness, adding another potential complication if Woodcock is suspended.
Although Smith has been the first-choice centre this year, Kahui is undeniably in fine form, having been awarded the man-of-the-match award after the All Blacks opened the European segment off their end-of-year tour with a 32-6 win over Scotland in Edinburgh on November 8.
Smith aggravated an injury he has managed throughout the season when kicking ahead during the second half of the Irish test in Dublin.
Otherwise there are no surprises in the provisional 22-man squad, with wing Joe Rokocoko, selected for a third consecutive match, the only member of the starting 15 who beat Munster 18-16 in Limerick last night.
Meanwhile, Gatland has stuck with the starting 15 who lost 15-20 to world champions South Africa on November 8.
Former All Black Gatland made a dozen changes for Wales’ second match of their autumn programme — a 34-13 win over Canada last Friday — but has returned to his top team as the Six Nations champions seek their first test win over the All Blacks since 1953.
“In selection we have said `same again’ to the side which took on South Africa in our opening match of the series. We were critical in-house of aspects of that performance a fortnight ago and that side now has a chance to respond to that criticism,” he said.
Gatland is looking forward to the prospect of helping Wales record a rare victory over the world’s No 1-ranked team, having lost the last 19 matches between the nations.
“The coaches, the fans, the players and everyone involved in the game in Wales knows exactly how big a game this is for us,” he said.
Faced with such a demoralising sequence of results, Gatland said the side’s mental well being was as important as their physical state.
“History is running against Wales and a lot of the stuff we are going through at the moment is in our heads,” he told Wales Online.
“We have done the physical and skill work and have competed with South Africa, but this is all about self belief.”
He thinks his squad are tracking well.
“We are now dealing with the mental side of things and that has come much quicker than I thought. I thought we wouldn’t be where we are now for another 12 months.
“We need to develop the leadership within the squad, players need to take more responsibility and drive the standards higher and higher.”
Questions remain over the availability of first five-eighth James Hook, who has been bracketed with Dan Biggar on the bench after a knee injury prevented him playing against Canada.
Hook will be assessed tomorrow before a final decision is made.
Stephen Jones has been to start in the No 10 jersey for what will be his eighth test against the All Blacks.