New Zealand vs Wales: Rugby World Cup bronze final between Wales and New Zealand is going to be a dead rubber, you might want to think again.
Both head coaches – Warren Gatland of Wales and New Zealand’s Steve Hansen – will be leaving their respective posts when the final whistle blows, both having garnered huge success in their roles and being keen to go out on a high.
Hansen’s All Blacks won the last two tournaments, and will be aiming for a final win in what is also captain Kieran Read’s final international, while the Welsh have the opportunity to equal their best-ever finish having come third in 1987’s inaugural competition.
New Zealand vs Wales
2019 Rugby World Cup third place play-off
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Date: Friday, 1 November, 2019
Kick-off: 9.00am BST
Gatland is due to announce his team for the All Blacks clash on Wednesday, and changes seem certain.
Wing George North and prop Tomas Francis both went off injured during the first-half against South Africa.
If they are ruled out, then there are likely to be starts for Owen Lane – he only joined the squad last week as an injury replacement – and Dillon Lewis, while the likes of centre Owen Watkin, scrum-half Tomos Williams and lock Adam Beard could make strong claims to begin the match on the turf.
Both coaches have rung the changes since their semi-final defeats, due to a combination of injuries and offers of World Cup game-time to previously benched squad members.
Wales and New Zealand must dust themselves down after Rugby World Cup semi-final heartbreak and prepare for one final test in Japan in Friday’s third place play-off.
Defending champions New Zealand were outfought and outplayed as England put on a performance for the ages to end the All Blacks’ reign of dominance and reach their first final since 2007.
A Wales side dealt bad luck with injuries throughout the competition failed in their bid to join them, falling short against South Africa to ensure there will be no fairy-tale ending for Warren Gatland.
Like the Wales boss, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen will also step down after this competition.
How New Zealand react to the most humbling of defeats will decide how this pans out – but it is hard to imagine anything but a positive one.
While both sides will enter determined to salvage some pride – the All Blacks might just have that little bit more left in the tank.