Wales are determined to stay positive despite not beating the All Blacks for 68 YEARS… as captain Alun Wyn Jones rallies his depleted side by insisting that the ‘hoodoo has to end some time’
- The odds are stacked against Wales in Saturday’s Test against New Zealand
- Wayne Pivac has told his players to forget history and focus on Saturday’s match
- There are fears the Principality Stadium will not be full despite being ‘a sell-out’
Even the most optimistic Welsh fan will be watching through their fingers on Saturday.
It has been so long since their last victory against the All Blacks that anyone present with a memory of 1953 will have been first in line for their Covid booster jab.
Only one player survives from that 13-8 win, the prop Courtenay Meredith who turned 95 in September. So Wales are in less of a rut, more a canyon, against New Zealand.
The odds are stacked against a depleted Wales in Saturday’s Test vs New Zealand in Cardiff
It is understandable then that as a nation Wales has largely given up hoping they might one day beat them. What is more there are worries that the ground will not be full.
Despite billed as a sell-out it seems Welsh clubs have overstretched on their ticket allocations and were on Friday night desperately flogging as many as possible, some for a loss, on social media.
It is believed one club had 50 sets of £75 tickets left – and if they were not shifted the Principality Stadium would not just be left with empty rows, but clubs with a five-figure bill to pay the Welsh Rugby Union.
Nervousness around the pandemic situation, some trepidation about the Covid pass required to enter, and the price – top seats at £95 – for a Test where the odds are stacked against Wales has seen a perfect storm gather.
Amid all this the Welsh squad are trying to remain optimistic.
‘Everyone looks at history as you can pull out stats like it being 68 years of defeat,’ said the head coach Wayne Pivac.
‘History speaks volumes – they’re a very good rugby nation and have proved that time and again.
‘What we do internally is look at 15 rugby players with a referee in the middle.’
Captain Alun Wyn Jones added: ‘The hoodoo has to go at some point, what I have said is we need a performance.’
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has told his players to focus solely on Saturday’s encounter
Johnny Williams, the 25-year-old centre winning his fourth cap, continued the glass-half-full theme.
‘We could be the first group to go and beat them for almost 70 years,’ said the midfielder who used to attend these games with his father.
‘What that would do for the nation would be massive. It’s a huge carrot. It would be amazing to do that.
‘That history does of course mean something and we’ve to got to fix that.’
Much around this match has an image problem.
New Zealand will receive a £2m fee for a match being played outside the international window
Arranged to gross the WRU £10m, and hand them a £4m profit to plough into a struggling rugby nation after Covid, some view it as a fetid dash for cash with the rugby itself far down the pecking order of priorities.
With it played outside the international window Wales are without seven English-based players, adding to the 13 others out via injury, or in Uilisi Halaholo’s case, Covid.
And however storied the 118-year history of this match is, the modern reality is that the All Blacks are unlikely to be here without the cool £2m fee they demand from their hosts to turn up.
But New Zealand scoffed at the criticism of this match.
There are concerns the ground will not be full on Saturday despite being billed as a sell-out
‘I find it very hard to cheer up pessimists so I won’t try to change their mind,’ said their head coach Ian Foster.
‘It would not be a Test week up here without people knocking the game or talking about the haka.
‘It’s outside the window but we have known that for nine months. It’s a game both countries wanted and been in the schedule for a long time so everybody has had a chance to plan and get ready for it.
‘When you look at teams missing players some of them are through injury and that’s regardless of what window that’s in. The numbers have been blown up a bit.
‘They are the Six Nations champions, you don’t do that by not having depth. Clearly they have got a few players who’ve not been released by clubs but that was always going to happen so that’s not a surprise and their preparation has not been affected because they have known that.
Only one player survives from the Wales victory over the All Blacks in Cardiff back in 1953
‘They have got a tight five that is largely intact, a lot of them Lions from the South Africa tour, so there will be no surprise to see them go to that part of the game as a key strength of theirs.’
Mercifully there will be elements to celebrate; Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe’s return to action after 812 days away from the Test stage – two years, three knee surgeries later – and his opposite number Beauden Barrett winning his 100th cap.
Inside the Welsh camp Pivac’s boys think they have the solution to ending 68 years of hurt.
‘We need to make sure we don’t show them too much respect,’ said prop Wyn Jones. ‘We can’t stand off them, we have to get at them.’
But from the outside it will be an occasion littered with problems.
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