'Let's just see how it pans out': Pivac upbeat for Wales' clash against All Blacks
Wales boss Wayne Pivac has described facing New Zealand as “the ultimate challenge” ahead of his team’s Autumn Nations Series opener.
The All Blacks will arrive at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on October 30 as overwhelming favourites to continue a long run of success in the fixture.
Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 31 games on the bounce against them, with 16 of those defeats being 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 Gallagher 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.”
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