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Autumn Nations Series: Wales v New Zealand Preview

Wales can make history this weekend, as they look to defeat New Zealand for the first time in 69 years, having last beaten the All-Blacks back in 1953.

The Welsh side, captained by Justin Tipuric head into the game as heavy underdogs, having just won five times since July 2021.

Wayne Pivac will have some case for some optimism following a good showing from his side in South Africa, this summer. But following a poor Six Nations Campaign, with just one win from five games, Wales will have to be on top of their game, if they are to compete against a New Zealand team, stacked with talent.

New Zealand are currently ranked fourth in the World and will head into the game-heavy favourites. The visitors are currently undefeated in 32 games against Wales, and they will be hoping to extend their incredible run this weekend.

With the absence of Dan Bigger, due to a knee injury. Pivac has handed the captaincy role to Justin Tipuric. But the head coach hopes the Ospreys flanker can rejuvenate his side, following a long period on the sidelines.

Pivac said: “He is a very senior player; he has captained the side before when we first took over against the Barbarians and did a very good job on those first couple of weeks.

“We think he will command a starting position and he has got the respect of all the players in the squad, from the most senior player, down to the most junior.

“We also look at the ability to communicate with referees and the influence you may or may not be able to have on a game. 

“We think he ticks the boxes we needed to be ticked.

“Justin can play in all three back row positions, so we have multiple options with the group that we have got.

“He has, like a number of players, suffered a serious injury in the last 18 months and done exceptionally well to work hard to get back to this level of game in a short space of time once being cleared to play.

“I admire those players that get through those dark times and when they come out the other side, they are generally a lot stronger for it.

“He’s in a way fortunate he is at a stage in his career where he understands and knows these things can happen.

“He has probably had a few injuries before but that was probably a particularly nasty one.

“I am pleased to have him back available for Wales”.

Ian Foster remains under pressure. His New Zealand side lost four games last season, a record only surpassed in 1998, when the All-Blacks were defeated five times, and in 1949, as John Hart’s team lost on six occasions.

But since their first loss against Argentina on New Zealand soil in August, losing 25-18 in Christchurch. But have since bounced back following a disappointing few years.

The All Blacks look to have found their feet again, having won four games in a row. But Beaudan Barrett remains wary of a passionate Welsh side, in front of their home crowd, and he believes Wales are not a side to underestimate.

“South Africa are the world champions and Wales really pushed them in that series. They got a good victory, and they are a very fit side who are good across the park. Their set piece is good, and they like to play with ball in hand,” Barrett added.

“They will be backing themselves, but we will be focussing on what we can do. It’s going to be a great Test. It always is at the Principality Stadium, it’s always a sell-out and we’re always up for the challenge.

“As an atmosphere, it’s right up there with the best. It’s been a while since I played at Twickenham and Murrayfield, but for me it was a special occasion last year when I was playing my 100th and there’s something about it that’s special – the singing, the roof, and the sheer size of the stadium. I’m sure there will be plenty of all that this weekend.

“They will be hungry. They are a quality side, and I don’t think they’ve got too many injuries. They’ll have their eyes on us, I’ve no doubt.

“But we are at the stage where we are looking more at ourselves and at ways to get better from the Japanese game.

“It will be towards the back end of the week, when we will start to think a bit kore about what Wales might bring.

“They’ll be staunch, and they are a fit side. They like to play a lot of rugby, so we will be up for that challenge, but at the moment we are just focusing on ourselves”.

Teams –

Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. George North, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Tomos Williams, 1. Gareth Thomas, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Will Rowlands, 5. Adam Beard, 6. Justin Tipuric (captain), 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Nicky Smith, 18. Dillon Lews, 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, 1. Ethan de Groot, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Sam Whitelock (c), 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Dalton Papali’I, 8. Ardie Savea.

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, Anton Lienert-Brown.

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