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Taylor: We must bounce back against Fiji.

Byline: By ANDY HOWELL Western Mail

Mark taylor warned his Wales team-mates they could not afford to think further ahead than Friday night's crucial match with Fiji at the Millennium Stadium. The veteran centre, who captained Wales during their summer demolition of the United States of America and Canada, spoke out in the aftermath of the record home defeat to New Zealand.

And he didn't pull any punches about the paucity of Wales' error-ridden performance against the Tri-Nations kings - or the potential danger of writing off Fiji.

The South Pacific Islanders warmed up for their Welsh mission by scoring six tries in a 39-29 victory over a New Zealand Divisional XV.

'They are a very good side and we can't afford to look beyond that game,' stressed a downcast Taylor.

The 52-times capped back urged his Wales colleagues to 'look at themselves' following the 41-3 beating against a New Zealand side that, compared to their second Test performance against the British Lions and their Tri-Nations campaign, rarely appeared to get out of second gear.

'There are no excuses - we just got soundly beaten,' Taylor candidly admitted.

'The biggest disappointment was we did not really test them. We lost a bit of ball and we did not get a platform, which meant they had the majority of the ball.

'It's very difficult when you are going backwards. New Zealand have so many great players and, when they start getting a roll on, they are very difficult to stop.'

Taylor was at pains to point out Wales' inadequacies meant they gifted control of the ball to Graham Henry's side.

'Great team as they are, and they have beaten a lot of top sides during the last two seasons, our mistakes early on probably fed New Zealand,' he said.

'We had limited ball and, what we did have, we did not use very well.

'The commitment and desire was there, but we were just a bit off our game. We have just got to fine-tune it for Fiji and the rest of the autumn campaign.'

Taylor declined to blame ring-rustiness - a lack of preparation time because of Heineken Cup matches - or the absence of six Lions.

'The biggest thing we have had in our favour the last few seasons has been the system. Everyone knows the system and the system has worked rather than individuals.'

But he emphasised, 'We need the ball to play. I think we were a bit edgy early on and it was a bit flat in the stadium.

'Once New Zealand's tails were up, they are probably the best side in the world at putting teams away.

'Our next game, against Fiji, is crucial. We've got to get our game working right at training this week.

'Our game-plan is fine. What we have to do is make sure to execute it correctly.'

He insisted it was easy for New Zealand to provide support-runners to their ball-carriers.

'Once you are going forward the whole time it's not hard to get the off-loads in. The momentum builds and people run off the ball-carrier,' he explained.
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Title Annotation:Sport Rugby
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 7, 2005
Words:514
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