Rugby: Gareth Anscombe poised to start against All Blacks after recall to Wales squad

Wales' Kiwis coach Wayne Pivac has recalled New Zealander Gareth Anscombe to his 38-man squad for their upcoming series of internationals, putting the 30-year-old in line to play the All Blacks later this month.

The former Blues and Chiefs back hasn't played for Wales since 2019, when a knee injury put an end to his World Cup hopes.

Ospreys' Anscombe - who qualifies for Wales through his Cardiff-born mother - is likely to start against the All Blacks on October 31, with regular pivot Dan Biggar one of several England-based players unavailable for the match, which falls outside the international window.

Pivac has also recalled England-based Thomas Young, despite the loose-forward falling short of the 60-cap rule for players based outside of the country.

Pivac received a special exemption for Wasps flanker Young after it was announced on Thursday that he would return to Cardiff next season. Exiled players with less than 60 caps are unusually not eligible for selection.

But injuries and a tough schedule that includes matches on successive weekends from October 31 against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia, has to some extent forced Pivac's hand.

Young, Biggar, and other England-based players, fellow loose forwards Taulupe Faletau and Christ Tshiunza, Callum Sheedy, centre Nick Tompkins and wing Louis Rees-Zammit will not be available for the All Blacks match.

"We understand that the opening game against the All Blacks is outside of the international window but I believe that we all need this game, after what has been a particularly difficult time for everyone because of the global pandemic," Pivac said.

"It will be fantastic to play in front of a capacity crowd once again, with a number of these players getting to experience that for the first time."

Teenager Tshiunza and prop WillGriff John are two uncapped players in the 38-man squad.

Pivac has also selected eight British & Irish Lions who lost the series to South Africa earlier this year, including stalwart captain Alun Wyn Jones.

"This has been one of the most difficult selections I've had to make with less rugby than would have normally taken place ahead of a campaign in addition to injuries and player unavailability," Pivac said.

"When you look at selection you want to select in-form players but it's fair to say that a number of players haven't hit their top form.

"We have looked at past performances at this level, including a very successful Six Nations campaign, and we've cross-credit some of that information into current form if you like.

"Injuries in certain positions, particularly at openside, have forced us to look a little bit deeper than we would normally but what it does mean is that more players have an opportunity to be exposed to this level of rugby."

Wales squad:

Forwards: Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Rhys Carre (Cardiff), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff), WillGriff John (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Will Rowlands (Dragons), Ben Carter (Dragons), Seb Davies (Cardiff), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Thomas Young (Wasps), Taine Basham (Dragons), Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Taulupe Faletau (Bath).

Backs: Tomos Williams (Cardiff), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Keiran Hardy (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Cardiff), Dan Biggar (Northampton), Callum Sheedy (Bristol), Johnny Williams (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Willis Halaholo (Cardiff), Ben Thomas (Cardiff), Josh Adams (Cardiff), Owen Lane (Cardiff), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets) (Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Christian Radnedge)


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