The All Blacks kick off the European leg of the Healthspan Elite Northern Tour with a blockbuster clash against Wales at Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday morning (NZT).
Match Details: All Blacks v Wales, Sunday November 6, 4.15am NZT (Live on Sky Sport)
Won: All Blacks 33, Wales 3
Last time: All Blacks 54, Wales 16 (30 October 2021)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Gianluca Gnecchi (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
INJURIES AND REPLACEMENTS
Openside flanker and captain Sam Cane, hooker Dane Coles and wing Will Jordan are out of the tour. Cane fractured his cheekbone in the 38-31 win against Japan in Tokyo, Dane Coles injured his calf during the warm-up to the same Test while Jordan is out with a “persisting vestibular [balance] issue.” Brodie Retallick has been suspended for two games following his red card against Japan, so who’s left? In the forwards, Shannon Frizell is all that remains from the team that started against Japan. Just three players who started last week in the backs return too with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Braydon Ennor released to play for the All Blacks XV in Ireland.
While it may sound like major disruption, there are only three changes from the line-up that defeated Australia 40-14 in Auckland almost six weeks ago, one of the All Blacks best performances of the season.
Aaron Smith is set to surpass Dan Carter as the most capped back in All Blacks history, playing his 113th Test. The champion halfback was born in Palmerston North in 1988 and attended Feilding High School where he played in the same First XV as Sam Whitelock.
In 2008, Smith was part of the New Zealand Under 20 side which claimed the Junior World Championship in Wales and in 2010, the Ngati Kahungunu-affiliated Smith made his Māori All Blacks debut. His All Blacks debut was in a 42-10 win against Ireland in 2012. Since then, he has started 91 Tests, won the 2015 World Cup, scored 21 tries, and played a record 175 games for the Highlanders in Super Rugby along the way.
Rio Dyer has been handed a Test debut on the wing after a lightning start to the season with the Dragons. Elsewhere, Gareth Anscombe (Rosmini College) is deemed fit to be named at first five while Ken Owens, Leigh Halfpenny and captain Justin Tipuric all return from long-term injuries to start. Unusually Tipuric will play blindside to accommodate in-form openside Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers). Taulupe Faletau is an exceptional loose forward, Louis Rees-Zammit one of the brightest young talents in the game and Alun Wyn Jones a timeless veteran.
Wales only won a single game in the Six Nations but with the return of senior backbone is a fighting chance to break the All Blacks five Test winning streak.
BARNES AND THE HISTORIC WHISTLE
Another interesting sub-story in this Test is referee Wayne Barnes who will mark his 100th Test by starting the game with the whistle used in the famous 1905 Test between Wales and the All Blacks. Wales won 3-0, but the game has forever been remembered for the non-awarding of a try to All Blacks centre Bob Deans who maintained, until his premature death in 1908 from complications after an appendix operation, that he had scored a fair try. Read more about it HERE.
Teams (caps in brackets):
All Blacks: 1. Ethan de Groot (10), 2. Codie Taylor (73), 3. Tyrel Lomax (21), 4. Samuel Whitelock (140-C) 5. Scott Barrett (55), 6. Shannon Frizell (22), 7. Dalton Papali’i (19), 8. Ardie Savea (67), 9. Aaron Smith (113), 10. Richie Mo’unga (42), 11. Caleb Clarke (12), 12. Jordie Barrett (45), 13. Rieko Ioane (56), 14. Sevu Reece (22), 15. Beauden Barrett (109)
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (18), 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (49), 18. Fletcher Newell (4), 19. Tupou Vaa’i (16), 20. Akira Ioane (19), 21. Brad Weber (17), 22. David Havili (22), 23. Anton Lienert-Brown (57).
Wales: 1. Gareth Thomas (13), 2. Ken Owens (82), 3. Tomas Francis (65), 4. Will Rowlands (21), 5. Adam Beard (37), 6. Justin Tipuric (85-C), 7. Tommy Reffell (3), 8. Taulupe Faletau (91), 9. Tomos Williams (36), 10. Gareth Anscombe (32), 11. Rio Dyer (Debut), 12. Nick Tompkins (23), 13. George North (105), 14. Louis Rees-Zammit (19), 15. Leigh Halfpenny (96)
Reserves: 16. Ryan Elias (30), 17. Nicky Smith (41), 18. Dillon Lewis (41), 19. Alun Wyn Jones (153), 20. Christ Tshiunza (2), 21. Kieran Hardy (14), 22. Rhys Priestland (52), 23. Owen Watkin (33)