Rugby: Wales hit by players’ crisis before All Blacks test



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All Blacks first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga slips off the tackle attempted by Wales first five-eighth Dan Biggar. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The highly anticipated clash between Six Nations champions Wales and rugby championship winners All Blacks later this month could be a dud with coach Wayne Pivac hit with a long list of players unavailable for testing.

Wales Online reports that a conservative number of 21 players will not play in the October 31 test due to injuries or English-based players not being available for selection.

The test takes place outside the international window, which means that Welsh players who play in the English Premiership do not have to be released.

That takes away 10 potential players, including British and Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau and Louis Rees-Zammit, while injuries appear to have ruled out other Lions Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Lydiate, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams.

Of those eight players alone, that’s 607 experience tests that Wales will be deprived of.

Lions forward Josh Navidi, meanwhile, suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Cardiff at the weekend and could be in doubt while Rhys Patchell, Ashton Hewitt, Michael Collins, James Botham, Josh Macleod and James Davies won’t be in good shape by the end of the month.

Lions rowers Wyn Jones and Ken Owens, along with locks Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard, are expected to be available, but Wales will be exposed in the first five eighths, open side and back.

Wales was scheduled to take place in Auckland and Wellington last July, but matches have been called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team’s last playoff clash finished third at the 2019 Rugby World Cup while the All Blacks haven’t played Cardiff since 2017 – a 33-18 victory.

Wales have just won the Six Nations title for the sixth time, including the triple crown with victories over England, Scotland and Ireland.

Wales opened their fall fixtures against the All Blacks on October 31 before facing South Africa, Fiji and Australia for consecutive weeks.

The All Blacks will face the United States in their first leg of a northern tour on October 24, followed by Wales, Italy, Ireland and France in back-to-back weekends.

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