Josh Adams says he is “buzzing” about the prospect of facing New Zealand when Wales launch their Autumn Nations Series at a sold-out Principality Stadium.
But the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against Wales after injuries and unavailability hit them hard.
Seven England-based players – including British and Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau – are absent because next week’s game falls outside World Rugby’s autumn international window.
And a number of others are out through injury, with established stars such as George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi all currently sidelined.
On top of that, Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953, losing 31 successive games, with 16 of those defeats being in Cardiff.
It all adds up to a case of mission improbable as the reigning Six Nations champions embark on a demanding autumn campaign that also features appointments with South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
“With the biggest challenge comes the biggest rewards. Why not think of it like that?” Wales and Lions wing Adams said.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) October 19, 2021
“Everyone selected in the coaches’ eyes are good enough to be international rugby players. What better challenge for someone who hasn’t faced one of the big southern hemisphere countries before to face the All Blacks?
“When you get that opportunity – no matter if you’ve played 150 Tests like Al (Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones) or a couple in some boys’ cases – against the All Blacks you want to show up.
“That is our mentality. We’ve got to show up as a team. It is a massive challenge, but I am buzzing for it and I know that energy is going through the whole squad.
“We respect them, of course we do, as a fantastic team who have been one of the best for a number of years and are coming off another Rugby Championship win. That is impressive.
“We respect they are a very good team, but then again, we are a very good team. When we get things right, we can hurt any team.
“Some of you will ask about injuries, and we have got some, unfortunately. That’s rugby. It is a great opportunity to see where we are in terms of the depth chart.”
While Wales are regular Six Nations challengers – they have won the title six times – their record against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia is poor.
Since claiming their first Six Nations crown in 2005, Wales have played the three southern hemisphere heavyweights a total of 53 times, but claimed just nine victories and one draw.
Adams added: “The Six Nations is an unbelievable tournament in its own right, and we have a good record in that.
🗨️ Those players lucky enough to be selected, it's going to be a massive occasion…
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) October 14, 2021
“But showing up in the autumn when we play these big teams, continuing a winning run into the autumn and beating them is a fantastic statement to put down.
“Our style of play is very much challenging the opposition with ball in hand.
“You are not going to run from everywhere. It is when those opportunities come, we’ve got to be good enough to take them.
“Challenging teams with ball in hand, having good attacking shape and structure is certainly something that can put these southern hemisphere teams under pressure.
“I think there are four campaigns before we get to France for the 2023 World Cup, so every one needs to be be better than the last one.”