'Another sham': Depleted Wales given no chance against All Blacks

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Oct 2021, 4:50PM
The All Blacks perform the haka ahead of a clash against Wales at the 2019 World Cup. (Photo / Getty)
The All Blacks perform the haka ahead of a clash against Wales at the 2019 World Cup. (Photo / Getty)

'Another sham': Depleted Wales given no chance against All Blacks

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Oct 2021, 4:50PM

The All Blacks' upcoming test against Wales has been labelled a 'sham' by a British writer, who has called on rugby to get its act together. 

The Daily Mail's Chris Foy said the Wayne Pivac-coached Welsh side had no chance of victory because it has so many regular players missing. 

The test is being played outside of the international window which means any Welsh players who play in the English Premiership don't have to be released. 

Pivac is also dealing with many injuries and Foy has run up the white flag before Sunday's criticised sell-out. 

"New Zealand's 104 - 14 rout of a weakened USA side re-emphasised rugby's urgent need for a proper, integrated global season," Foy wrote. 

"…the whole game is diminished by the inability to achieve a streamlined logical structure…damaging overlaps between international and club fixtures cannot go on. 

"Wales won't fold as easily as the Americans when they face the All Blacks, but the sad fact is that Wayne Pivac's side - missing a raft of regulars - have no chance of winning the out-of-window test. 

"It will be another sham fixture; an exercise in making money from a mis-match. 

"As for the USA, their on-field ordeal won't have done much for their hopes of staging the 2031 World Cup. 

"The suspicion remains that they are only a potential rugby market in the sense of commercial gain, rather than mass public interest." 

Pivac was unable to select England-based players Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Dan Biggar, Callum Sheedy, Taulupe Faletau, Thomas Young and Christ Tshiunza in his large squad. 

Wing Rees-Zammit, first five-eighths Dan Biggar and star No. 8 Faletau started in Wales' last big Six Nations test against England. Wales won easily to claim the Triple Crown. 

Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, George North, Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny are among those out with injury. Liam Williams has had a recent appendix operation. 

The Welsh contenders include three Kiwi backs Gareth Anscombe, Johnny McNicholl and Willis Halaholo, but Michael Collins has an injury. 

The All Blacks will no doubt be extra keen to shield themselves against any defeatist talk from the hosts, as they look to preserve a 68-year unbeaten record against the Welsh. 

The Telegraph's James Corrigan has already called it the "stupidest fixture ever" and an insult to fans being asked to pay high ticket prices. 

Simon Thomas from Wales Online said the same player-availability problem arises year after year, as the Welsh union arranges a test against one of the southern hemisphere sides outside of the test window. 

Pivac addressed the status of Sunday morning's game saying: "I want to comment that there's a lot of talk about why we're playing them at that time and if it lessens the occasion. 

"The occasion, first and foremost, for these players and management is going to be huge. 

"We've missed playing in front of live crowds, and having a sell-out at the Principality Stadium is exciting for everyone involved. 

"To have the best two teams in the world, the All Blacks and then the Springboks a week later, challenges don't get any bigger." 

Meanwhile Rees-Zammit expressed his disappointment at being sidelined, saying: "That's the game (New Zealand) you want to play in as a kid growing up. But unfortunately, I won't be able to play." 

Earlier this month Welsh Rugby Union boss Steve Phillips defended criticisms of the test, revealing that the game could earn the governing body up to $7.8 million. 

Phillips hit back at critics, saying the blockbuster matchup will be important to help fund the local community and professional game, especially at a time when the sport's finances have taken a hit due to the pandemic. 

"The first thing I'd say is this is not a new thing," Phillips told Wales Online, when asked about playing the All Blacks without Wales' English-based players. 

"We've done a fourth autumn international since I can remember, and I can remember a good long way back, so it's always been part of our business planning. 

"I would guess we will probably make between £3m to £4m (NZ$5.8-7.8m). It's absolutely vital because that's what funds the game. It also addresses a lot of concerns we hear from the regions. 

"I don't want to nick Warren Gatland's ideas, but to be the best you've got to play the best and they (New Zealand) are certainly up there with the best. 

"You then put your commercial hat on. It's sold-out and we could probably sell it out again. In terms of financial contribution for the year, it's fundamentally important. 

"It then funds the game and it's a virtual circle. 

"It's great news to have them (New Zealand) coming here. It's great financially and commercially it's great for our brand. Literally everything is sold out – every ticket and every hospitality space. 

"In fact, the team were looking around last week trying to create hospitality space so I'm really looking forward to it."