Wales head coach Wayne Pivac believes his side’s Autumn Nations Series schedule will be as tough as it gets as they take on four Southern Hemisphere giants.
The 2021 Guinness Six Nations champions will face New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia in back-to-back weekends.
Pivac is entering his third year in charge of Wales and will take on his homeland when the All Blacks visit Cardiff on 30th October.
“It’s going to be as tough as it has ever been,” said Pivac, when speaking to the BBC’s Scrum V programme on Sunday.
“It’s a good test on us, on our style of game the way we want to play, we are building towards a World Cup in 2023, we’re at the halfway stage.
“It’s a great time for us to come up against the southern hemisphere boys. At the World Cup, we’ve got Fiji and Australia in our pool, so for us mentally those two games are massive for us.”
The Autumn Nations Series will see fans return to the Principality Stadium in their droves for the first time since the pandemic and Pivac is relishing welcoming back the vociferous Welsh crowds.
“I’m very excited, our players have gone through it, it wasn’t a lot of fun playing without the fans to be honest, no one enjoyed it.
“So we’re really, really looking forward to getting back to the stadium, full house and the All Blacks in town.
“We weren’t able to play them in the summer series last year due to Covid and the best team in the world, they are number one at the moment.
“It is just unfortunate that we won’t have some of the English-based players available but certainly that is an opportunity for local boys.
“If you are a Welsh player pulling on the jersey, some of our boys did it last year for the first time, played 8-10 Tests and haven’t played in front of a crowd yet at the stadium, so we are really looking forward to it.”
Pivac is looking at the fixtures in October and November as prime opportunities to narrow down his squad, while he is also keen to give those deserving a chance.
“Form is everything, there are few injuries about at the moment so there will be some players who won’t be able to be selected,” he said.
“We’ve looked at around 50-odd players in the last two years, so it’s time for us to start nailing down 40 to 45 players of which 33 will come from that group for the World Cup.
“We are looking forward to naming a squad, getting back into training and challenging ourselves against the southern hemisphere sides.”
“[Our priority] is giving everyone a fair trial, we had a good look at the players and selecting the boys that we think that have the skillset can play the game that we want to play.”