sport

Davies wants more from Wales

Bradley Davies has underlined the standard Wales must reach in their quest for a stunning triumph over adversity against New Zealand.

The odds are not so much stacked against last season's World Cup semi-finalists and Six Nations title winners, but in danger of engulfing them.

It is hard to remember the last time Wales found themselves written off as a distant 6/1 chance to win at home.

But that is where they stand after an autumn of discontent riddled by two poor performances, two dire results and a crippling injury list.

The dust has still not settled following unexpected losses against Argentina and Samoa, defeats that have left Wales clinging to a place among the world's top eight teams.

If the All Blacks claim their anticipated Millennium Stadium success on Saturday - and then Australia win in Cardiff seven days later - Wales are likely to enter next month's 2015 World Cup pool draw as a third-tier participant.

They must also face New Zealand - a country they last beat 59 years ago - without injured stars like 2013 British and Irish Lions-in-waiting George North, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Dan Lydiate.

Head coach Warren Gatland, though, is now back in charge after time away making initial preparations for heading up that Lions tour of Australia, while Wales have consistently been at their most dangerous when faced by adversity.

"What we realise as a squad is that we have to turn up and all deliver nine out of 10 performances, but it is possible," second-row forward Davies said.

"We have done it in the past when we have performed very well and we have all played to a high standard. I think the biggest thing is the mentality.

"A lot of teams lose before they play the All Blacks because they are a very good team and sometimes that gets on top of you a bit, so it is about getting our minds right and believing we can do it."

Flak has flown from pundits and supporters during the past fortnight - Davies admits it has felt a bit like "closing the blinds in your house and locking the front door" - and he knows Wales must deliver a concerted response.

"It is difficult hearing bad stuff about yourself," he added.

"Some people take it differently to others. You have to take it with a pinch of salt, sometimes, because we were the best thing since sliced bread a couple of months ago, and then we have not played so well and we have rightly had criticism.

"It's not nice hearing bad things about yourself, but it makes you a better player. It is easy for people to say you are awesome or you are great, but you won't learn from that.

"We were all feeling a bit sorry for ourselves when we came back in on Monday, but 'Gats' spoke and put a smile on our faces and put things in perspective.

"We haven't played to our potential and maybe we have been affected by outside pressure, but we have a great opportunity to play against the best team in the world and prove our doubters wrong.

"We know how good we are. You don't become a bad team because of two bad performances. We have had a lot of success in the last 12-14 months and we just want to get back to winning ways.

"Like 'Gats' said, some boys have been in the squad and had World Cup success and a Grand Slam and have not really had bad times.

"I am probably one of those as well, not being used to the pressures of people saying 'you played crap on the weekend'. It is tough to take sometimes, but you take it on the chin."

Wales have only beaten the Barbarians since skipper Sam Warburton held aloft the Six Nations trophy last March, and a sixth successive defeat tomorrow would represent their worst losing run for almost 10 years.

And while the smart money is probably on an All Blacks victory margin of between 15 and 20 points, Wales are also undoubtedly capable of making the game a thrilling contest.

"We have to believe in ourselves," Davies said.

"We are playing the best side in the world and it is going to be a very difficult challenge, we are under no illusions about that, but we have no fear.

"I love playing against the All Blacks. As a professional, there is no greater challenge than playing the best team in your sport. No matter who plays for Wales on Saturday, they will step up and bring their A game.

"'Gats' has said it is all about growing, and the experience against Argentina and Samoa where everyone is saying 'you are rubbish now' and 'what's happened to Wales?'

"You have to deal with it as a player, and when the heat is on we have to stick together and take the criticism."

Teams for Wales versus New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Saturday, 5.15pm.

Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies

(Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), L Williams (Scarlets); R Priestland

(Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James (Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Toulon), S Andrews(Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).

New Zealand: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith; T Woodcock, A Hore, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read.

Replacements: D Coles, W Crockett, C Faumuina, B Retallick, V Vito, P Weepu, B Barrett, B Smith.