All Blacks coach "very sad" for NZ-born Wales star ruled out of Test with Covid

What was set to be a momentous day in the career of Wales centre Willis Halaholo will now be a tough watch from the sidelines after he was ruled out of facing birth country New Zealand on Saturday.

The Auckland native had described his chance to face the All Blacks for the first time as "huge for me and my family," but a last-minute Covid-19 diagnosis has ruled him out of the fixture.

It's the latest twist in what's already shaping up to be a tough day at the office for Wales coach Wayne Pivac, who will be without at least 15 of his senior players due to injury and ineligibility.

That includes a Premiership -based contingent including Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit, while George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi are among the injured.

Visitors New Zealand may be the enemy as they embark on the European leg of their end-of-year tour, but that didn't prevent assistant John Plumtree sharing sympathy for Halaholo following his late withdrawal.

He was asked about the prospect of the roof being kept open at the Principality Stadium in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

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"We've heard the news and we only know as much as you at this stage," said Plumtree, who coached Halaholo during his two seasons with Super Rugby outfit the Hurricanes.

"There will be all sorts of talk around the game and is it in jeopardy but as we understand right now the player who has tested with Covid has dropped out of their environment. They'll all get tested and all have to be negative before they can play in the weekend.

"We all got tested last night and we haven't had any results yet but it's just business as usual. It's what's happening in their camp.

"It's very sad news for Willis I'm sure he would've been excited about playing the All Blacks. He's a quality player so it's sad for him and his family."

What are your score predictions for New Zealand's trip to face Wales on Saturday? Let us know in the comments section.

Halaholo, 31, qualified to play for Wales through residency in 2019 but didn't make his debut until this year's Six Nations when fellow Kiwi Pivac led them to the title.

The Cardiff mainstay looked all set to start for the ravaged hosts at the Principality this weekend, but the coach will now be forced into another adjustment against the world's top-ranked team.

Scarlets centre Scott Williams has taken Halaholo's place in the Wales squad and could be promoted to starting duties after an impressive run of form in the United Rugby Championship.

Five-times capped Halaholo shared a story to his Instagram page on Tuesday, revealing one of his aunts had died shortly before learning he had tested positive for coronavirus.

However, he referred to the recent death of Maori All Black Sean Wainui—who died in a car crash that is now "being treated as a suspected suicide" —saying that incident "puts things into perspective."

New Zealand are on a high after winning the 2021 Rugby Championship and more recently opening their end-of-year tour with a 104-14 win over the United States on Saturday.

Head coach Ian Foster's side will take on an under-strength Wales on Saturday before facing Italy (November 6), Ireland (November 13) and France (November 20).

Wales have lost their last 31 games against New Zealand dating back to December 1953, and their chances of ending that drought look all the slimmer after losing Halaholo.

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