Wales v New Zealand: Wayne Pivac’s side aim to end 69-year losing streak

Place: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: November 5, Saturday Start: 15:15 GMT
Coverage: Live text, coverage and reaction on the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary from BBC Radio Cymru and updates from BBC Radio Wales.

It has become one of the longest losing streaks in the sport. And something ingrained in the consciousness of most people associated with Welsh rugby.

Sixty-nine years and 32 defeats have passed since Wales managed to defeat New Zealand on December 19, 1953, when Bleddyn Williams’ side won 13-8, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Is this the year? Are the All Blacks vulnerable? Well, New Zealand lost to Argentina and Ireland at home in 2022, but still managed to win the Rugby Championship.

Wales have one last chance to stop the milestone slipping to 70 calendar years.

It’s up to Wayne Pivac’s Class of 2022 to attempt to manage what past teams have failed to do in this latest installment of one of rugby’s most unique international rivalries.

“The boys know very well, because it is in the media from time to time,” said Pivac.

“It’s one of those records, as a Welshman, you want to break that joke. We’re going to do everything we can to do that.”

Welsh players are reminded of the stark statistics every time the All Blacks roll into town.

Alun Wyn Jones has a world record win against New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 2017, but has lost 13 times in a Wales shirt against the All Blacks.

Here is the core. The Welsh players have been in Lions and Barbarians shirts and managed to defeat New Zealand.

Although, if you haven’t heard, Llanelli beat the All Blacks 50 years ago this week, with club-mates from Swansea, Cardiff and Newport completing the feat.

But the Welsh senior side have not managed that since they ‘dominated’ the first match sequence with three wins from four games in 1905, 1935 and 1953.

Bleddyn Williams was part of the Cardiff and Wales team that beat New Zealand in four days in 1953.

Changing times

A lot has happened in the last seven decades. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in 1953 and the UK has had 15 national political leaders since then.

The National Assembly of Wales is created—now the Senedd or the Welsh Parliament—with four First Ministers. No one has seen the senior Wales team defeat the All Blacks.

Why this sequence? After all, Wales have beaten every other major rugby playing nation.

Most other countries have beaten New Zealand since Wales last managed the feat, with 11 wins over France, while England and Ireland have won seven against the All Blacks in recent times, with five wins since their first success in 2016.

Wales have never achieved the feat, and now it’s another New Zealand coach tasked with trying to break the cycle.

Pivac led a senior Wales men’s team to their first Test victory against the South African Springboks. Now he has more history on his mind.

“We love playing the All Blacks, it’s a fantastic game,” Pivac added.

“There will definitely be sell-out crowds, the atmosphere will be pre-Covid with the bands and all the excitement.

“I’m looking forward to it. I know the players are excited and it’s a chance to make history.

“We were keen to do this in South Africa and we would like to make history in this [New Zealand] the game We have a couple of weeks to prepare for it.

“Certainly, the way we’re approaching it, we want to build on the performances in South Africa, where I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas – performance and forward exchanges.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep at it. What better side than New Zealand, who probably haven’t had their best season. When you look at the team sheet, it’s quality. But we’re out to beat it.

“We respect them but we have to go there and not be afraid. That’s the message in our camp. Let’s go there and put our stamp on the game.”

Pivac is certainly saying the right things. As Kiwi Wales coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland have done in the past.

The decorated trio have won World Cups and Grand Slams, but could never achieve that elusive victory against their countrymen while in charge of Wales.

Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland both coached Wales teams against their native New Zealand
Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland both coached Wales teams against their native New Zealand

Henry and Hansen caused defeats for Wales when they took over the All Blacks.

New Zealand’s next in charge is Ian Foster, who coached Hansen between 2011 and 2019 before taking the top job.

“It’s always been a heated rivalry, I think there’s been a lot of respect between the two countries, in some cases,” Foster said.

“The Kiwi connection through the coaches over the last 20 years has probably made that rivalry a bit more popular.

“It’s a special place with the stadium and the Welsh fans.”

From home to home

Wales have a notoriously slow start to the autumn, with losses to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina becoming the norm in November games.

The problem for Wales is often New Zealand players thrive in the cauldron of the Principle Stadium. Fear rather than inspire.

Just look at Beauden Barrett who came up with the winner against Wales 12 months ago in his 100th international.

“As an atmosphere, it’s up there with the best,” said Barrett, who has 75 points and eight tries in eight wins against Wales.

“When I was playing the 100th last year it was a special occasion, and there is something special about it: the singing, the roof and the great size of the stadium.”

The Barrett brothers celebrate New Zealand beating Wales in 2021
Brothers Beauden (10) and Jordie Barrett celebrate New Zealand’s win over Wales in 2021

Beauden will be at full-back this season after tormenting Wales in their 54-16 victory over half a year ago.

He is one of three Barretts in Cardiff’s starting line-up along with lock Scott and center Jordie.

“Last year was unbelievable,” said Jordie Barrett.

“It’s a great atmosphere when they’re singing. They didn’t sing much last year, so hopefully we can’t keep them singing for too long during this game because we know how much it means to the Welsh players.

“It’s an incredible theater to take part in.”

Don’t take the Barretts’ word for it.

“We’re excited to be here,” center Rieko Ioane said.

“It’s an amazing city, everyone is so friendly and with the reception we’ve had from people on the street, you realize how big the game is.”

Lucky omens?

New Zealand have suffered heartbreak at the Principality Stadium, albeit not at the hands of Wales.

Most notably, the 2007 World Cup quarter-final defeat against France when New Zealand supporters were outraged by a forward pass they believed had been missed by English referee Wayne Barnes.

If Wales want any luck from that day 15 years ago, it may be Barnes who will be the man in the middle this weekend in his 100th test match.

Barnes will start the game with the whistle used in the famous 1905 Test between Wales and the All Blacks. The result that day? A win for Wales.

Here’s another possible omen. When the All Blacks lost in 1953 it was Nelson Dalzell, the grandfather of Saturday’s New Zealand captain Sam Whitelock.

This week also marks 50 years since Llanelli beat New Zealand 9-3.

Now Pivac’s team has the chance to create its own history. Or simply remain part of the loser statistics.

It is the hope of defeating New Zealand once and for all that fascinates most Welsh supporters. every time

Is this the year? Was the All Blacks’ invincible aura finally shattered in Wales?

Time will tell.