Anscombe back for Wales after two years for NZ test

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe will face the land of his birth after returning to the Wales side for the first time in over two years when they face New Zealand in their autumn international test in Cardiff on Saturday.

Auckland-born Anscombe has been preferred to Rhys Priestland in the No. 10 jersey as Wales coach Wayne Pivac juggles his options with the match falling outside on the international window and leaving him short of his overseas-based players.

Junior All Black Anscombe, 30, injured knee ligaments in the build-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and his long rehabilitation took until the start of this season.

“In terms of the two 10s, we think Gareth starting and Rhys finishing is the way we want to go. They’re both training well. They’re both excited,” Pivac told reporters.

He will partner scrum-half Tomos Williams in the half-back pairing, while among the forward Alun Wyn Jones will become the most capped international rugby player for a single country, surpassing the previous record of 148 appearances held by former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.

The lock has 160 caps in all, but 12 of those were with the British & Irish Lions, most recently in South Africa earlier this year.

“What do we say about him? We kept saying stuff about him last season and he’s still going,” Pivac said.

“He’s such a great role model. It’s fantastic he’ll pass Richie McCaw. But typically for him, it’s about the team having a great performance, not him.”

Loose-forward Taine Basham will make a first start having made his debut against Canada earlier this year. He is part of a back-row that also includes Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright.

“They’ve been working together for a month. Taine’s work-rate has improved and he’s improving as an all-round seven. He brings other aspects to the seven game — power and anticipation,” Pivac said.

“Ross has a hard edge and defends well. Then you have the athleticism and footwork of Aaron. Hopefully they’ll all work together.”

Wales XV

Johnny McNicholl, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Adam Beard, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Ben Thomas.