Wales boss' headache ahead of All Blacks showdown
NEWS: Wales are reportedly set to field a vastly understrength team to face the All Blacks at the end of this month due to injuries and the unavailability of numerous key players.
According to WalesOnline, Wayne Pivac’s side could be without 21 frontline players, including those who ply their club trade in other countries such as England.
As the October 30 match falls outside of World Rugby’s November test window, Premiership clubs aren’t obliged to release players for international duty.
That means Wales could be without British and Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau and Louis Rees-Zammit, who play for Northampton Saints, Bath and Gloucester, respectively.
Other Welsh players who compete in the Premiership, and will therefore be off-limits for Pivac, are Bristol Bears duo Callum Sheedy and Ioan Lloyd and Saracens midfielder Nick Tompkins, all of whom featured against Canada and Argentina in July.
Then there are the likes of Leicester Tigers flank Tommy Reffell, Saracens scrumhlaf Aled Davies, Wasps loose forward Thomas Young and Worcester Warriors Owen Williams – who is injured anyway – who will also be unavailable.
Additionally, WalesOnline reports that injuries will play a significant role in who will play for the Six Nations champions in their clash against the recently-crowned Rugby Championship winners in Cardiff.
Headlining that exhaustive list of individuals are British and Irish Lions players Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Lydiate, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and, potentially, Josh Navidi, who left the field with a damaged shoulder in Cardiff’s United Rugby Championship loss to the Bulls over the weekend.
Elsewhere, Welsh-qualified Kiwi midfielder Michael Collins, Rhys Patchell, Ashton Hewitt, James Botham, Josh Macleod and James Davies won’t be fit by the beginning of November test window.
Collins will be particularly disappointed, as the former Blues and Highlanders star was believed to be a frontrunner to make his test debut for his adopted country against his homeland after impressing in the early stages of his Ospreys switch.
In positive news, Pivac should have the services of British and Irish Lions test forwards Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Adam Beard and captain Alun Wyn Jones, while hopes are high Tomas Francis and Ross Moriarty could be available.
Wales haven’t played the All Blacks since the bronze final of the 2019 World Cup. The two teams were scheduled to play each other twice in last year’s July test window but those matches were scrapped due to Covid-19.
Following the All Blacks clash, Wales will go on to play South Africa, Fiji and Australia in consecutive weeks.
New Zealand, meanwhile, will play the USA Eagles the week before the Welsh test before facing Italy, Ireland and France to close out their test season.
Rugbypass & WalesOnline