Match Preview – Wales vs New Zealand


Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Whitelock will captain Wales and New Zealand respectively in Cardiff on Saturday

Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Whitelock will captain Wales and New Zealand respectively in Cardiff on Saturday

Read the talking points as Wales host New Zealand at a sold-out Principality Stadium in the Autumn Nations Series on Saturday…

Wales depleted for Autumn opener

The first week of fixtures in the Autumn Nations Series falls outside World Rugby’s Test-recognised window.

As a result, New-Zealand born Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is shorn of his England-based players, including British and Irish Lions tourists Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau and Louis Rees-Zammit.

Louis Rees-Zammit scored three tries in four appearances on his first British and Irish Lions tour in the summer

Louis Rees-Zammit scored three tries in four appearances on his first British and Irish Lions tour in the summer

With experienced internationals George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi among a host of players out through injury over the autumn, the task of facing the three-time world champions couldn’t be greater.

Wales’ preparations were further hit by centre Willis Halaholo, a strong contender to start in the midfield against the country of his birth, testing positive for Covid-19.

All Blacks’ hold over Wales

‘Belief’ has been the buzzword in the Wales camp among players.

Without a victory against the All Blacks since 1953, spanning a period of 31 Tests, there have been questions over whether Wales are battling a psychological barrier.

Wales have lost their last 16 matches against the All Blacks in Cardiff - most recently a 33-18 defeat in November 2017

Wales have lost their last 16 matches against the All Blacks in Cardiff – most recently a 33-18 defeat in November 2017

“No, I don’t think so,” said Ospreys prop Tomas Francis. “People used to say that about Australia (Wales suffered 13 successive losses to the Wallabies between 2009 and 2017) and then we beat them twice in a year.”

Captain Alun Wyn Jones, in line for his 149th cap for Wales, added: “We are well aware of the history of the fixture, the succession of quality players they have always had.”

Building on Six Nations triumph

After a challenging first year as Warren Gatland’s successor in 2020, during which Wales won three of their 10 Test matches, Pivac led his side to a surprise Six Nations title in March.

Their dream of a Grand Slam was shattered by a last-gasp try from France’s Brice Dulin, but despite the disappointment, there could be no denying the progress made in a short time frame.

Wales were aiming to repeat their Grand Slam success from 2019

Wales were aiming to repeat their Grand Slam success from 2019

However, Wales’ momentum was blunted in the summer with key absences due to the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa as they recorded a comfortable win against Canada before suffering defeat to Argentina in their two-match series.

The performance Wales deliver in Cardiff on Saturday will offer a telling insight into where Pivac’s squad is at, with South Africa, Fiji and Australia also ahead as they continue their preparations for the 2023 World Cup in France.

All Blacks better for Springboks loss?

The All Blacks landed in Britain on Monday ahead of the month-long European tour on the back of a 104-14 thrashing of the USA in Washington at the weekend.

The result saw Ian Foster’s side return to winning ways after their 10-match winning streak was ended by world champions South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship earlier this month.

New Zealand's defeat to the Springboks in the Rugby Championship was their third loss since the 2019 World Cup semi-final

New Zealand’s defeat to the Springboks in the Rugby Championship was their third loss since the 2019 World Cup semi-final

In a thrilling encounter, New Zealand, who had already won the northern hemisphere title, made uncharacteristic errors as the Springboks regained their status as the world No 1 Test side.

With matches against Italy, Ireland – who beat the All Blacks on their last trip to Dublin in 2018, and France, assistant coach John Plumtree said: “The two Tests against the Boks were excellent for us, particularly around the physicality of what they brought and we understand we’ll probably get a bit of that at the weekend as well.”

Packed Cardiff crowd

The visit of the All Blacks will be the first game at the Principality Stadium with a capacity crowd since the 2020 Six Nations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wales' success in the Six Nations was played behind closed doors

Wales’ success in the Six Nations was played behind closed doors

Such has been the rarety of playing in front of crowds, even experienced figures such as All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick are excited at the prospect.

“To play here is special enough, but with what is going on in the world, for them to be able to open up and have a full crowd is going to be cool,” he said.

“I know a lot of the boys haven’t played here before, or it’s been a while, so we’re pretty excited to get in there. Whether the roof is open or shut I’m not sure, we’re definitely looking forward to it.”

Team News

Wales: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 8 Aaron Wainwright.

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; 1 Joe Moody, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Nepo Laulala, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 7 Dalton Papalii, 8 Ardie Savea.

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.





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