Wayne Pivac relishing ‘ultimate challenge’

Date published: October 14 2021 - News Desk

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac believes going head-to-head against New Zealand is rugby’s “ultimate challenge” ahead of their upcoming Test later this month.

The All Blacks will be full of confidence of continuing their long-running winning streak against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on October 30.

In 35 previous Tests between these countries, Wales have only been victorious on three occasions and New Zealand are currently on a 31-match winning streak.

Desperate Wales

Wales will be in a desperate mood as their last victory in this fixture was registered in 1953 and 16 of those losses were in Cardiff.

Pivac is without a number of injured players, with the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi all absent, while Liam Williams recently underwent appendix surgery and is being closely monitored.

And as Wales’ first autumn encounter – they also meet South Africa, Fiji and Australia – falls outside World Rugby’s international window, it means Premiership-based players will not be released for that fixture.

It is a scenario which sidelines more than half a dozen of Pivac’s 38-man Wales squad, including Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, Northampton fly-half Dan Biggar and Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau.

“The side we would have liked to have taken into this series is the side that won the Six Nations, but that is not possible,” Pivac said.

“So we reevaluate and we look at these matches as a great opportunity to broaden the depth with the World Cup in mind.

“Nothing changes in terms of the preparation and mindset. It is just some different players in the changing room.

“You want to challenge yourself against the best. In terms of consistently the number one team in the world, the style of rugby they play and how we want to play, I think that will be the ultimate challenge for us.

“Things happen in sport. We will go into this game as huge underdogs, undoubtedly, and let’s just see how it pans out on the night.”

Wales are set to welcome a first capacity crowd at the Principality Stadium since February last year when New Zealand arrive in town.

And Pivac added: “The occasion, first and foremost, for these players and management is going to be huge.

“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.

“If you are a player, I guess you’re looking at it thinking there is a huge opportunity for me to perform on this stage and put myself in a good position for selection further down the track.

“The reason for having this (New Zealand) game, I wholeheartedly agree with, is that we need funding. We are in the situation we are in.

“Without this funding it would be a lot tougher on clubs, players and the union to proceed the way we would like to.

“Out in the community, anyone we bump into, is so excited. Yes, they would like to see the full Six Nations champions squad playing the All Blacks, but I think everyone is just excited to get to the venue.

“The older players talk about it. I heard (Wales centre) Jonathan Davies said some time ago talking around how he couldn’t wait for the crowds to get back, and I think that’s the same for everyone – players, management and supporters.

“And for that fact alone, I can’t wait for the day to come. Having the crowd back will be magnificent.”

‘The sky’s the limit for Christ Tshiunza’ – Rob Baxter

Meanwhile, it could be a case of “the sky’s the limit” for surprise addition to the Wales squad Christ Tshiunza, according to Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter.

The 19-year-old, who plays in the back-row and the second-row, moved to Wales from DR Congo in 2010 and has had a rapid rise to the top after coming through the ranks at Cardiff’s Whitchurch High School, which also produced past pupils like Sam Warburton, Gareth Bale and Geraint Thomas.

The uncapped teenager did not have much time to celebrate his Test call-up as he was turning out for Exeter University in a cup game against Cardiff University within an hour of his selection for Wales’ upcoming Tests against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.