Wales bid to end 69-year All Black hoodoo as Wayne Pivac’s side look to take advantage of New Zealand’s topsy-turvy season… though Leigh Halfpenny could miss out through injury
- Wales face New Zealand on Saturday and Wayne Pivac’s side will be up against it
- They will be hoping to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 32 meetings
- Leigh Halfpenny is a doubt after he headed down the tunnel early on Friday
Referee Wayne Barnes will blow his whistle, for the 100th time in Test rugby, and the clocks in Cardiff will begin to turn.
Back through all the years of hurt, and towards a future unwritten. Wales against New Zealand.
The threads woven into this clash stretch back to 1905, when Wales first beat the All Blacks. The whistle from that day will be used to help Barnes mark his own milestone.
Wales are preparing to face New Zealand in the first of four autumn internationals on Saturday
Wayne Pivac’s side haven’t beaten the All Blacks in 32 meetings and since 1953
They pass through 1953, when Wales last beat New Zealand — 32 meetings ago. Through 1972, when prop Keith Murdoch entered Kiwi folklore following a punch-up in a Cardiff hotel. Wales will certainly be hoping for something different to last year when New Zealand ran out 54-16 winners in Cardiff.
When better to end this ‘hoodoo’ than after New Zealand’s topsy-turvy season? When better to test the mettle of young wing Rio Dyer than in this first of four autumn Tests?
‘It certainly starts with a bang, doesn’t it?’ said Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe.
Gareth Anscombe said Wales beating New Zealand is ‘the last one we haven’t knocked off’
However, there was a scare yesterday when Leigh Halfpenny headed down the tunnel early during the Wales captain’s run.
Should Halfpenny miss out, Rhys Priestland could make his first start in five years. That would mean another reshuffle to a side already missing the likes of Liam Williams, Josh Adams and skipper Dan Biggar.
Hooker Ken Owens and flanker Justin Tipuric, Wales’ new captain, return following long-term injuries. For debutant Dyer, meanwhile, a baptism of fire awaits.
New Zealand have issues of their own. This has been a poor season by their standards, captain Sam Cane (cheekbone) and hooker Dane Coles (calf) are injured, while lock Brodie Retallick is suspended. Ian Foster has nevertheless named a strong side that includes Jordie Barrett at inside centre.
Leigh Halfpenny (right) could miss the game through a potential injury picked up on Friday
New Zealand have had a topsy-turvy season and are struggling with injury issues of their own
Anscombe said: ‘Beating New Zealand is the last one we haven’t knocked off, certainly in my time.’
The 31-year-old has been handed a start at 10 in the absence of Biggar.
For a player raised in New Zealand but who is now very much Wales red, these meetings are always special. ‘International rugby at the Principality, in a sold-out stadium, is a bit like a drug,’ Anscombe said. ‘Once you get a taste of it, it is the ultimate. It is certainly what lights my fires and there is no bigger occasion really than the All Blacks in Cardiff.’
TV: LIVE on Amazon Prime, 3.15pm kick-off.
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