Gareth Anscombe will make a first Wales appearance since August 2019 and complete his recovery from a horror knee injury when he starts against New Zealand, the country of his birth, on Saturday.
Anscombe had more than two years on the sidelines after rupturing knee ligaments against England at Twickenham over two years ago. The 30-year-old finally returned to action with his new side Ospreys this season. Now he is ready for a Test comeback and Anscombe will be named as the Wales head coach Wayne Pivac’s playmaker on Thursday morning when he announces his side to face the All Blacks.
It will be some return for Anscombe, who was born in Auckland and played for New Zealand at under-20 level before moving to Wales who he qualifies for through his Cardiff-born mother Tracy. “The length of time and the setbacks he’s had along the way are a credit to him and what he’s put in,” the Wales captain, Alun Wyn Jones, said of Anscombe.
“Gareth would probably say himself he’s been through some dark periods. He’s still got the fight and desire and, if anything, it’s probably more so than before because he’s had that time away from the game.
“The characteristics which you see in a player who has been through so much can spawn a lot of determination from those around him.”
Anscombe has been picked to start at fly-half ahead of Rhys Priestland with Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy unavailable to face New Zealand.
“Gareth is fully fit and has done everything with us. There is no need for protection regarding his knee and he’s good to go from a physical aspect,” said the Wales attack coach, Stephen Jones.
Anscombe’s playmaking abilities make him the perfect fit for the attacking style of Pivac wants to play, but the odds are stacked against Wales this weekend at a sold-out Principality Stadium. It will take a miracle if they are to seal what would be a first Welsh win over the All Blacks since 1953.
Pivac could be without up to 19 players for the match. His seven English-based stars, including Biggar, are unavailable because the New Zealand game falls outside World Rugby’s Test window.
Eight more key men are injured and centre Uilisi Halaholo was on Tuesday ruled out and forced into isolation for 10 days after testing positive for Covid-19.
Liam Williams, Ellis Jenkins and Elliot Dee are big doubts too while Wales are monitoring Halaholo’s close contacts to ensure a coronavirus outbreak doesn’t hit.
Wales said: “All close contacts that have been identified are being managed appropriately in line with government guidelines and we’ve enhanced testing for them.”