Coach Wayne Pivac plotting to end All Blacks' supremacy over Wales dating back to 1953
Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) - New Zealand will seek to extend their 32-match winning streak over Wales when the two sides clash at Cardiff’s Principality 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 summer series 2-1 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 summer tour to South Africa that saw them lose the series 2-1, 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”.
- ‘High-tempo game’ -
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 Autumn 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 winger 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 flanker, 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 full-back in a New Zealand team that threatens to match the potency of Wales’ backline under a closed roof and dry conditions on Saturday.