Wales v New Zealand - teams and predictions
PREVIEW: Milestones await for two of current-day Rugby Union’s outstanding players in Alun Wyn Jones and Beauden Barrett – when Wales face New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wales captain Jones is poised to play his 149th Test for his country, with the lock set to surpass former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw’s world record of appearances for a single country in a match that pits Europe’s Six Nations champions against the recently-crowned Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship winners.
Meanwhile, New Zealand flyhalf Barrett is in line to win his 100th cap as a strong and much-changed team head into the first leg of a European tour after the All Blacks’ 104-14 rout of the United States in Washington last weekend.
At the age of 30, the two-time world player of the year is one of the few who could go past Jones and New Zealand coach Ian Foster said of Barrett: “He’s just a quality person. The thing I love about him is that he prepares the team first and then himself. He’s very selfless.”
‘Selflessness’ has long been a quality attributed to Jones, who has also played 12 Tests for the British and Irish Lions, with Wales coach Wayne Pivac labelling his skipper as “the ultimate professional”.
He added: “It’s fantastic he is going to go one more than Richie McCaw, but typically for Al, it’s not about him, but the team coming together and having a great performance.”
That might be particularly hard this weekend, with many fearing for Wales given they are missing a raft of first-choice players.
Dashing wing Louis-Rees Zammit, flyhalf Dan Biggar and No.8 Taulupe Faletau have not been released by their England-based clubs as Saturday’s match falls outside the International Rugby Board’s designated Test window.
Liam Williams, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi are among a lengthy injury list.
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Sixty-eight years of defeats
Wales have suffered 31 straight losses to New Zealand since their last victory over the All Blacks in 1953.
But Pivac, himself a New Zealander, said his side should take heart from James ‘Buster’ Douglas’s stunning win over previously unbeaten world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson in 1990.
“I could rattle off upsets here – James ‘Buster’ Douglas and Mike Tyson. Every now and then, you get a massive upset.”
Meanwhile, Pivac, a former Scarlets coach who has been in Wales for seven years, defended the timing of the match by insisting the Welsh Rugby Union could not turn down the estimated £4 million (US$5.5 million) it will make from the game.
“Looking at the finances in this country, without this fixture, we’d be in big trouble,” he said.
And he insisted his revamped side, with New Zealand-born fly-half Gareth Anscombe making his first Test start in more than two years following ligament damage, would be inspired by playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Principality Stadium in what will be Wales’ first sell-out international since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You can pull out stats like it being 68 years of defeats. It’s an opportunity to go out there and put on a good performance. 75,000 people have been starved of this, so we’ve got a job to do to make it a great occasion.”
It was a point endorsed by Foster, who asked what his side could expect, replied: “Loud, boisterous, fanatical and red…I sense a real edge in this game. We felt it in New Zealand when we were first able to fill a stadium after the COVID period.
“We love these occasions, we know it will certainly fuel our opposition, but we’ve got to make sure it fuels us with excitement too.”
Players to watch
For Wales: Gareth Anscombe is set to make his first Test start in more than two years, after being named at flyhalf. The New Zealand-born flyhalf has not played a Test match since August 2019, when he suffered major ligament damage in a World Cup warm-up against England. The focus will also be on captain Alun Wyn Jones, winning his 149th Wales cap this weekend. Wales was also forced into a late change, fro the initial matchday 23, when hooker Ken Owens suffered a training ground injury. His place was taken by Ryan Elias, with Kirby Myhill drafted onto the bench.
For New Zealand: Flyhalf Beauden Barrett will be hoping for a good day at the office to help celebrate his 100th cap for the All Blacks. Barrett will also be playing his eighth Test against Wales, as the 30-year-old playmaker becomes the All Blacks’ 11th Test centurion. Coach Ian Foster made 12 changes to his side from last week’s 104-14 rout of an amateur United States team. In the pack the experienced front row of props Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala and hooker Codie Taylor return after last running out against the Springboks earlier this month, with the second row of captain Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick boasting more than 200 caps between them. Behind the pack, TJ Perenara is alongside Barrett at scrumhalf, with David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown the centre pairing. Rieko Ioane and Will Jordan are on the wings, with Jordie Barrett at fullback for the opening fixture of a European tour that also sees New Zealand playing Italy, Ireland and France.
Head to head
@rugby365com: New Zealand by 18 points
Wales: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Ben Thomas.
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 9 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Sevu Reece.
Date: Saturday, October 30
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17.15 (16.15 GMT, 05.15 NZ daylight savings time Sunday, October 31)
Expected weather: Light rain showers and a moderate breeze. However, the roof is likely to be closed. High of 13°C and a low of 9°C
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)