Harris confident of Wales improvement

Wales finished their preparations to take on New Zealand on Saturday when they trained at Wembley Stadium early on Friday afternoon.

Coach Iestyn Harris has expressed that Wales will be looking to improve on their performance against England in Leigh last Saturday which saw them lose 42-4 in their opening game of this Gillette Four Nations tournament.

“We’ve quietly built into tomorrow (Saturday),” Harris said. “I think it was important to deal with some of the issues that we had last week and the players have absorbed that information and have worked hard. We want to eradicate some of the errors that we had against England.  

“We’ve improved in certain areas and we feel we’re better equipped to take New Zealand on than we were a week ago against England. I think our group are desperate for improvement both individually and collectively. Come the end of the tournament, if we’ve improved as a group then the results will look after themselves.  

“Hopefully we’re going to put in an improved performance against New Zealand. If that’s good enough to win the game then fantastic. If not, as long as we improve, we’ll be pretty happy. Matching them physically is a key area for us.  

“If you look through New Zealand‘s squad they’ve got riches of talent and ability there. Irrelevant of who plays, we’re all equally as good. We’ll certainly invest the energy on what they’re about but what we’re about as well.

“I think any Welsh team in whatever sport be it union, league or football are cast as underdogs. Generally Welsh sport gets used to that tag and over-performing. We’re hoping to do exactly the same. This group of players are cast as underdogs, there’s no hiding that, but we’re comfortable with it and we feel we can lift our intensity and ability and perform against a very good New Zealand side.”

Harris was pleased that the players had the chance to give Wembley Stadium the once over before Saturday’s game.

“The group are excited about it,” Harris adds. “They’re not nervous or worried. That’s what sport’s all about – challenging yourself against the best. It’s a fantastic stadium and we’re against one of the best sides in the world, so why wouldn’t you want to play there?

“The surface is great, it’s really firm. We may have some rain but it should hold out and we should see some open Rugby League which is what everyone wants. Playing in a stadium like this is exactly where Rugby League deserves to be.”

One player eager to impress is 22-year old Lloyd White. Fit again after a hamstring injury kept him out of the England defeat, he is relishing playing at Wembley for the first time.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s the biggest stadium in the UK. For me, growing up as a boy playing rugby or football, I had dreams and ambitions to come play on a big stage like this.

“We’re just trying to go out there put a performance in for ourselves that’s all we can do. As long as we come off the pitch with our heads held high, then that’s all we can ask for.”

New Zealand skipper Benji Marshall admits that they know little about the Welsh team, only that there are threats that they need to be aware of. I think it was important to deal with some of the issues that  

“Before last week I don’t know too much about them,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of video this week and obviously we watched the game last week. Some of their forwards are big boys and we’re going to have to put our bodies on the line to stop them. With a guy like Lee Briers in the team, who can pull anything from anywhere, and has a big kicking game, it’ll be a big challenge.”

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