It will be some seven weeks shy of 68 years since Wales last defeated New Zealand when the sides clash in Cardiff on October 30.
Sadly, Wayne Pivac will be without a number of important players for the encounter at the Principality Stadium.
With the match being played outside the autumn Test window, Wales’ England-based personnel will be unavailable to the head coach.
Read more : Twelve years of Dan Biggar, training ground tensions and the unseen gestures that define who he really is
Factor injuries into the mix and we make it at least 13 players who will be denied to Pivac as the class of 2021 look to what no Wales side has done since Cliff Morgan, Ken Jones, Bleddyn Williams, Rees Stephens, Roy John, Clem Thomas, Rex Willis and Co managed in 1953 and lower the colours of the All Blacks.
Here’s the full list of those who’ll definitely be unavailable, with a further count of others who can be considered doubtful at this point.
The Lions Test fly-half will be off limits because he’s England based, the match is being played outside the autumn Test window and there’s no Welsh player-release arrangement in place with Gallagher Premiership clubs.
Wales would have wanted Biggar’s 95 caps worth of Test experience, his bravery and galvanising influence as they try to end their prolonged search for a win over the All Blacks.
In particular, with Leigh Halfpenny absent as well, Pivac’s side could miss Biggar’s goal-kicking.
But there’s nothing the coach can do about it.
Dan Biggar in action for the Lions
(Image: David Rogers/Getty Images)
Wales haven’t lost a game in which Sheedy has started at fly-half, with the Cardiff-born player having steered his country to three wins and a draw when wearing the Welsh No. 10 jersey.
But he won’t involved against the All Blacks.
Like Biggar, the scampering and clever Sheedy operates over the border and so is beyond Pivac’s reach for the out-of-window match.
It means Wales will be missing the two No. 10s they used during last term’s Six Nations title success.
While the assumption is that Faletau will be on a mission to prove a point after being passed over as a starter for the Lions Tests earlier this summer — his contribution over the three games was restricted to just 21 minutes off the bench in the second game of the series, as Warren Gatland went with the Irishman Jack Conan as his No. 8 — the Bath player won’t be able to make any such statement against New Zealand, for the same reason that Biggar and Sheedy will be off limits.
Wales won a Six Nations Grand Slam without Faletau in 2019, so they have shown they can adapt in the absence of their 86-cap No. 8.
Ross Moriarty featured in the middle-of-the-back-row slot to good effect in that tournament and he was also one of the few Wales players to emerge with his reputation enhanced from the series with Argentina three months ago.
Pivac has the option of using Wainwright at No. 8 and Moriarty at six in the All Blacks game.
But he would have wanted Faletau to be available as well.
Another who’ll be out of range because he plays his club rugby over The Bridge.
Last year, after an effort against for Bristol Bears against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park that fairly took the breath away, the Press Association’s much-respected rugby correspondent Andrew Baldock posted on Twitter: “If Ioan Lloyd does not win at least 50 caps, I will be amazed. He has the ability to be Wales’ Cheslin Kolbe.”
But Lloyd didn’t feature for Wales in their three Tests this summer despite being part of Pivac’s squad.
Would he have played against New Zealand? Probably not.
Pivac’s decision to pass him over for a cap in June indicates the coach feels the 20-year-old has room to develop parts of his game.
Anyway, it’s academic for the purposes of this exercise. He won’t be available to the New Zealander in October.
The Gloucester flyer will be missing against the All Blacks because of the situation that blocks the way of others listed above.
It means Wales will not be able to field their Lions back-three trio of Liam Williams, Josh Adams and Rees-Zammit against New Zealand.
At 20, like Lloyd, Rees-Zammit has things to learn.
But he will have benefited hugely from his Lions experience and Wales will hope he comes to the fore over the rest of the autumn campaign.
Williams is likely to feature at 15 against New Zealand. Who partners Adams on the wing? Take your pick from Jonah Holmes, Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Alex Cuthbert, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Rogers and Steff Evans, and anyone else who cares to put his name forward.
He’s back with Saracens after his loan spell with the Dragons, and so it’s no-go for him against the Kiwis.
The utility back wasn’t the worst for Wales in the summer — that one was a crowded field — twice adding impetus off the bench and having to operate with no forward platform when he started, in the second Test against Argentina.
So the likelihood is he’d have been pushing for a squad place against New Zealand.
Jonathan Davies and Willis Halaholo should feature strong in Pivac’s midfield deliberations.
Justin Tipuric looks on after his injury playing for the Lions against Japan
(Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
“Justin is a massive player to lose against the southern hemisphere sides because in many ways he plays the game like them. He’s a bit like Michael Hooper, a distributor, a leader and he never misses a tackle.”
So said Shane Williams in The Rugby Paper over the weekend.
Suffice to say Wales would have wanted Tipuric around.
His region the Ospreys say a shoulder injury picked up on Lions duty is set to keep him out until Christmas.
Josh Navidi is favourite to feature at No. 7.
He would have been in the frame to replace Tipuric, but he underwent surgery on a shoulder injury earlier this summer and isn’t expected back on the pitch until November.
Botham is thus unlikely to feature in the early phase of Wales’ autumn Tests.
The full-back was at the centre of one of rugby’s cruellest story lines of the summer, when he suffered a serious knee injury while making his hundredth Test appearance. He damaged ligaments barely 30 seconds into Wales’ match with Canada and has since undergone surgery.
He has vowed to work his way back to fitness as quickly as possible.
But it’s likely to be next year before we see the 32-year-old Scarlet playing again.
In his absence, Liam Williams will likely feature at full-back against New Zealand.
He’s another one sidelined by a knee injury, in his case while on duty for the Ospreys in their clash with Cardiff in April. The bump heartbreakingly cost him a place on the Lions tour.
The big man is on the mend, but it’s hard to imagine him making it back in time to face New Zealand.
Willis Halaholo is well-placed to figure at outside centre.
The Scarlets say he has just started to run again, with physios continuing to monitor his progress as he tries to battle back from the Achilles problem that snatched away his chances of a debut Wales cap in February.
But let’s not expect too much.
Even if Macleod does return over the next month or so — and no-one has definitively said that’s going to happen — the assumption is the recommendation will be to ease his way back rather than go full tilt towards trying to win a place in Wales’ autumn squad.
Realistically, it’s odds against him featuring.
Here’s someone else whom the rugby gods seem to have a downer on, with the redoubtable blindside having worked ferociously hard to regain his Wales place at the age of 33, only to suffer a knee injury that saw him leave the field early on in the Six Nations clash with Ireland.
In barely 10 minutes of action against the Irish, he’d banged in seven tackles, each one a high-impact affair. It had all looked so promising until the script went so badly awry.
He’s still in recovery mode.
As with Macleod, he’ll need time in regional rugby before contemplating a return to the Test arena.
He’s set to miss the rest of 2021 after sustaining cruciate ligament damage playing for the Dragons against Northampton Saints in April.
Just maybe, given the other unavailabilities, he could have interested Pivac.
Now he’ll have to chase his debut cap when he returns.
Others who are doubtful
James Davies continues to be sidelined by the effects of concussion, with the Scarlets’ turnover king not having played since last November.
While Rhys Patchell is out with a knock that isn’t thought to be serious, it would be asking a lot for him to return quickly and find himself facing the All Blacks within weeks of coming back from such a long time out.
Johnny Williams has a shoulder injury and Gareth Anscombe has still yet to play again after two years out with a knee injury.
Anscombe appears on the point on a return.
But it would be a major surprise if anyone dared rush the 30-year-old, notwithstanding Wales’ mounting fly-half problems.