Wales v New Zealand (Sat)
|Autumn internationals: Wales v New Zealand|
|Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Sat 22 November Kick-off: 17:30 GMT|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, BBC Two HD, online, mobiles and BBC Sport app from 16:55 GMT; commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales & Radio Cymru; text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles|
As sporting hoodoos go, Wales' ongoing anguish against New Zealand has a fair way to go to match the Boston Red Sox's 86-year gap between their World Series wins or the 163-year absence of a British winner of sailing's America's Cup.
Still, the fact that it is now 61 years and 25 matches since the Welsh beat the All Blacks is an astonishing stat given all the great Wales teams there have been over the years.
Their continual failures against the big three southern hemisphere sides, which currently stretches to 21 matches without a win, is a stain on Warren Gatland's otherwise world-class coaching CV.
Although a proud New Zealander himself, he would like nothing more than finally beating a side he rates as one of the greatest rugby teams of all time.
One man who is bullish about ending this run is scrum-half Rhys Webb. Only seven caps into his international career, he talked up Wales' chances this week and even went as far as to say that the mighty All Blacks, who have lost only two out of their last 48 Tests, are currently there "to be taken" claiming that: "They've been getting a bit flustered when people have been going at them."
Strong words, especially if Wales play like they did last Saturday against Fiji. They conceded an incredible 22 turnovers in an unconvincing 17-13 victory marred by a refereeing performance that irked Gatland.
Winger George North compared Gatland to being like a disappointed father in the aftermath of the match. "I don't think he needed to say much," said the Northampton wing. "It was like that thing your old man does when he says: 'I'm not angry, I'm disappointed'. He didn't say much, and he just walked out. That's when you know when you are in the real pooper, so to speak."
New Zealand icon Richie McCaw will become the first rugby player in history to captain his side in 100 Tests, a truly extraordinary record by an extraordinary player.
Fittingly, the opponents are the same as when he first captained the side back in 2004. His status in the game is such that even their bitter rivals Australia tweeted their respect at this achievement via their official feed.
- Wales won three of their first four Tests against New Zealand between 1905 and 1953, but have not beaten them since 19 December 1953 when they won 13-8 in Cardiff - a run of 25 matches.
- This is the longest winning sequence against one opponent in tier one Test history.
- Twenty of the All Blacks' 26 victories over Wales have been by a margin greater than 10 points.
- In 12 matches this millennium, Wales have conceded an average of 37.6 points per game to the All Blacks and have lost those Tests by an average margin of 23.5 points.
- They last defeated the All Blacks, South Africa or Australia six years ago when they beat Australia 21-18.
- Warren Gatland's record as Wales coach against the above sides is P26, W1, L25.
- Wales have lost four of their last six Tests.
- Warren Gatland's side have conceded an average of 22 points in their last 10 Tests.
- New Zealand have only lost two of their last 48 matches (W44, D2).
- In 41 Tests since they won the World Cup final 8-7 against France in 2011, they have only failed to score less than 20 points on three occasions - two of them have been in this year (D12-12 v Australia and W14-10 v South Africa).
- New Zealand's starting XV boasts 737 caps.
TEAM NEWS & LINE-UPS
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny has returned from concussion to take over from Liam Williams at full-back as one of nine changes from the side that laboured to victory over Fiji.
Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb also return from injuries with the latter taking over at scrum-half from Mike Phillips. Up front Jake Ball and Alun Wyn Jones return at lock and Paul James at prop.
After his controversial appearance for Gloucester on Friday, Richard Hibbard is restored to the Wales hooking berth.
New Zealand's Richie McCaw will lead out New Zealand for the 100th time on Saturday as Steve Hansen makes 12 changes to the side that beat Scotland.
Fly-half Dan Carter is not in the matchday squad for the game in Cardiff as Hansen feels he is "rusty" after recovering from injury. Instead Beauden Barrett is at 10 with Colin Slade on the bench.
McCaw is the only forward to retain his place after the win over Scotland last weekend.
Wales: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb-; 1-Paul James, 2-Richard Hibbard, 3-Samson Lee, 4-Jake Ball, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton (captain), 8-Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: 16-Scott Baldwin, 17-Nicky Smith, 18-Rhodri Jones, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Mike Phillips, 22-James Hook, 23-Liam Williams
New Zealand: 15-Ben Smith, 14-Charles Piutau, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith; 1-Wyatt Crockett., 2-Dane Coles, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Jerome Kaino, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 8-Kieran Read
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Joe Moody, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Patrick Tuipulotu, 20-Liam Messam, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Colin Slade, 23-Ryan Crotty
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa) and Luke Pearce (England)
TV: Graham Hughes (England)