Halfpenny admits underperforming regions could be hurting Wales
Leigh Halfpenny admits regional woes could be catching up with Wales as they scramble to avoid an autumn whitewash, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets are likely to be out of the running in the Heineken Cup before the year is out while the Dragons have lost both their Amlin Challenge Cup games.
With the Blues and Dragons languishing in the bottom half of the RaboDirect Pro12, it has been a grim campaign so far for many members of the international squad.
Halfpenny admitted it may have had a part to play in the dismal performances in defeat to Argentina and Samoa.
The full-back said: "It may be a factor. The Heineken Cup did not really go well for the regions and there wasn’t any winning momentum coming in to the camp.
"With the Blues we haven’t won too many games so obviously the confidence is not there as a team as it used to be, and maybe that could be a factor.
"The habit of winning is not there at the moment and we are going to try and create that ourselves on Saturday."
That will be easier said than done against the All Blacks, who are unbeaten in 19 Tests over the last 15 months.
"We are not being given a chance by anyone so it’s up to us to prove people wrong," said Halfpenny.
"It is funny how things have turned round so quickly since Australia in the summer.
"We have been competitive against the southern hemisphere teams and now people are not giving us a chance."
Wales name their team to face New Zealand at 1pm and defence coach Shaun Edwards believes the 23 players will be boosted by the return of head coach Warren Gatland.
The Kiwi was absent for the losses to Argentina and Samoa while on Lions scouting duty.
"If the gaffer is missing then it's going to hit you hard and as a coaching team we are much better when there are five of us all together," said Edwards.
"I expect Warren to be his normal self. He gives us some words of wisdom there is no doubt about that, and as the build-up goes on to Saturday he will get more and more involved."