Wales v New Zealand - Teams and Prediction
THE BIG HOODOO: New Zealand will seek to extend their 32-match winning streak over Wales when the two sides clash at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday although the hosts fancy their chances against visitors who have not enjoyed their best year.
The All Blacks have not lost to the Welsh since 1953 and in their last nine fixtures have amassed 33-plus points in each game. They ran out 54-16 victors last season.
But by their own high standards, New Zealand have had a varied season, losing a home July series 1-2 to Ireland and, despite going on to win the Rugby Championship, suffering a first home loss to Argentina.
“What better side to come up against than a New Zealand that probably haven’t had their best season?” asked Wales coach Wayne Pivac, himself a Kiwi.
“But certainly when you look at the teamsheet, it is quality, we know we’re in for a big game but we’re there to win it.”
It will be Wales’ first international since a July tour to South Africa that saw them lose the series 1-2, albeit registering a first-ever win over the world champions on African soil.
That went some way to making up for their fifth-placed finish in last season’s Six Nations, with just one win – over Scotland, a campaign that culminated in a one-point first-ever home defeat by perennial wooden spoon winners Italy.
“We want to build on performances in South Africa where I think we improved in a lot of areas, set piece and forward exchanges, and we need to make sure that we keep building on that,” said Pivac.
The losing streak to New Zealand, he added, was “one of those records that as a Welsh person you want to break that hoodoo… we’ll do everything we can to do that”.
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All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he was expecting a “high-tempo game from a very passionate team” that goes on to play Argentina, Georgia and Australia in the Welsh capital.
“If we’re not on our game you end up chasing them,” acknowledged Foster.
“We love playing here and we’re really up for what we know will be a really physical encounter.”
Foster, whose All Blacks wrap up their November Series with Tests against Scotland and England, also warned against judging Saturday’s match on the back of the most recent result between the two nations.
“You’re probably short-minded if you’re only focused on last year because if you go back the last 10-15 years it’s never easy here,” he said.
“Every game’s been tight and even last year up until the 60-minute mark that was a real arm wrestle, so we’re expecting nothing different.
“They’re a team that know their game, they play high tempo, they’re very confident in what they do and very physical, a lot of strong ball carrying and a lot of carry clean type rugby and also they quite like the aerial game, so there’s a good mix in that area.”
Pivac hands uncapped Dragons wing Rio Dyer a baptism of fire after naming him in a run-on side that sees the return of veterans Ken Owens, Leigh Halfpenny, Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe.
Justin Tipuric will skipper the side from blindside flank, returning to the Wales XV for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations match against France.
“It’s great having them back,” said Pivac. “They bring a lot of experience and they are big game players. Playing New Zealand doesn’t get much bigger so we’re really looking forward to having them back in the side.”
Foster named Sam Whitelock as his captain, the lock pairing up with Scott Barrett in the absence of Brodie Retallick, who picked up a two-match ban after being red-carded for a shoulder charge in last week’s laboured 38-31 victory over Japan in Tokyo.
Scott’s brothers Jordie and Beauden are named at inside centre and fullback in a New Zealand team that threatens to match the potency of Wales’ backline under a closed roof and dry conditions on Saturday.
Players to watch
For Wales: The 22-year-old Rio Dyer will be making his debut against the All Blacks and there will be a big spotlight on him. His opposite number will be Sevu Reece and he will have to be on his toes marking the big man. Fullback Leigh Halfpenny has all the experience in the world and he will have an important role to play in the kicking game on Saturday. Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe has the potential to unlock the tightest defences and he needs to pull some tricks out of the bag if his team are going to win. In the pack, Tommy Refell wears the No.7 jersey and he will want to build on his strong showing in South Africa earlier this year. Wales will also need to bring the physicality up front and locks Adam Beard and Will Rowlands will be key in that area.
For New Zealand: Jordie Barrett gets the nod at inside centre for this match and his speed and eye for the gap will surely be a big worry for Wales. His brother, Beauden, returns to the fullback position and being an extra playmaker, he will interchange with Richie Mo’unga on attack. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith will become the most capped back in All Blacks history on Saturday and his experience in that vital role is a big boost for the visitors. In the pack, Ardie Savea has been one of the All Blacks’ best players this year and he will be one of the go-to men to get them over the advantage line. Scott Barrett also returns to give his side some much-needed muscle.
@rugby365com: New Zealand by four points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Refell, 6 Justin Tipuric (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Christ Tshiunza, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Owen Watkin.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizzell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Brad Weber, 22 David Havili, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 04.15 NZDT Sunday, November 6)
Expected weather: Roof closed – Outside It will be cloudy with periods of rain.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
AFP & @rugby365com