Gareth Anscombe starts for Wales against New Zealand on Saturday as fly-half features in his first Test match for over TWO years following ACL injury
- Gareth Anscombe will wear the No 10 jersey for Wales against New Zealand
- The 30-year-old has been picked ahead of Rhys Priestland for Saturday’s clash
- It is his first Test match since August 2019 when he suffered a cruel ACL injury
- Wales have not beaten NZ since 1953 – and only in 1903 and 1935 before that
Gareth Anscombe starts for Wales this Saturday against New Zealand, playing his first Test since August 2019 when he suffered a horror knee injury.
As reported by Sportsmail on Wednesday the 30-year-old is in the No 10 jersey ahead of Rhys Priestland for the Cardiff All Blacks match, where he will play against the country of his birth in an emotional return.
Anscombe has played three competitive matches, and one pre-season friendly, since his comeback from a savage ACL knee injury suffered more than 800 days ago, but now is ready to start a full-blown international.
Gareth Anscombe starts for Wales this Saturday against country of his birth New Zealand
Anscombe has been picked ahead of Rhys Priestland, who is among the replacements
And in a late change Ryan Elias will start at hooker, and Kirby Myhill comes onto the bench after Ken Owens was ruled out with a back injury after a failing a fitness test – meaning Wales will be without 20 players for this game.
‘The focus for this group has been two weeks of training, they’ve worked really, really hard and it has galvanised them. We’ve been low on numbers this week so it hasn’t been the normal preparation in terms of exact numbers to train against each other, so that’s been a challenge,’ said Wales boss Wayne Pivac.
‘The guys are really excited but they know it’s a big task at hand. The reality is we’re two years away from a Rugby World Cup and we’re building towards that. We’ve got a Six Nations around the corner to defend, and try to win that tournament again.
‘They know it’s a massive challenge ahead. Every young Welsh player when they’re growing up want to play at the Principality in front of seventy-five thousand, and if you ask them who they want to play against New Zealand would be one of the top couple of sides they’d choose.
‘With injuries and unavailability it’s another great opportunity for players like Taine Basham and Ben Thomas to come into the group and gain valuable experience. They’re going to come away from this test match knowing what it’s like to play one of the best teams in the world.
Wales boss Wayne Pivac admitted it was a ‘big task’ ahead of facing the All Blacks in Cardiff
‘To win a World Cup you have to play against teams like New Zealand at some stage in the tournament and you have to win those games. It’s going to be a great experience for those guys who haven’t played a lot of test rugby and they’ll certainly know they’ve been in a match afterwards.’
Anscombe is one of two players of Kiwi descent in the Welsh XV – with Scarlets back Johnny McNicholl also starting.
Wales have their backs against the walls in this fixture, with seven English-based players frozen out as the match is taking place outside the international window, Uilisi Halaholo missing out due to Covid, as well as injuries to George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.
Pivac therefore has opted for an all-Dragons back-row of Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty and Taine Basham, the 21-year-old winning his fourth cap.
Scarlets back Johnny McNicholl is another player of Kiwi descent in Wales’ starting XV
The front-five looks first-choice with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis joined by Adam Beard and captain Alun Wyn Jones – who on Saturday becomes the most-capped player for a single nation in his 149th appearance for Wales.
In the backs Anscombe has Tomos Williams inside him, Johnny Williams and Jonathan Davies at centre with a back-three made up of Josh Adams, Owen Lane and McNicholl.
On the bench Ben Thomas, from Cardiff, could win a second cap. Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953 – and only in 1903 and 1935 before that – so history is not on their side.
WALES XV for New Zealand: McNicholl; Lane, J Davies, J Williams, Adams; Anscombe, T Williams; W Jones, Elias, Francis, Beard, AW Jones, Moriarty, Basham, Wainwright.
Bench: Myhill, Carré, Lewis, Rowlands, S Davies, G Davies, Priestland, B Thomas.