So the Wales team to face New Zealand is out and, given all the absentees, it’s a pretty decent-looking line-up.

Rugby correspondent Simon Thomas looks at the thinking behind Wayne Pivac’s selection for the autumn opener at the Principality Stadium.

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15. Johnny McNicholl

One by one, the other options have fallen by the wayside at full-back.

Leigh Halfpenny was never going to be available for the autumn campaign after the horrendous knee injury he suffered against Canada in July, while Liam Williams was always unlikely to be ready to face the All Blacks after undergoing appendix surgery.

That left Hallam Amos, Jonah Holmes and Johnny McNicholl as the contenders ahead of the squad announcement.

But Amos, who wore 15 in the last two summer Tests, effectively ruled himself out by announcing he was retiring from rugby at the end of the season to concentrate on his medical career, while the versatile Holmes didn’t make the cut.

That left McNicholl, who will make just his third Test start as he wins his first cap in a year.

There has never been any doubt over what he offers in attack, with his decision-making when he enters the line and his finishing, the question mark has been over his defence and there will be few sterner examinations of that than by the men from the land of his birth.

14. Owen Lane

With Gloucester’s Louis Rees-Zammit unavailable due to this game being outside the Test window and George North still recovering from knee damage, you were looking at one of the three summer wings to partner Josh Adams.

Those were Owen Lane, Jonah Holmes and Tom Rogers.

Well, the picture became a lot clearer when Holmes and Rogers were both left out of the autumn squad.

The omission of Holmes came as something of a surprise, given his form for the Dragons this year, and when he was then again overlooked amid the injury-related call-up for Alex Cuthbert, it became clear he was not in the plans.

All of which sees the powerful Lane take the starting for his fifth cap.

Finally, he has managed to stay injury free and merits his selection for the predatory threat he has shown, both with a cracking score against Argentina in July and further try hoovering for Cardiff this term.

13. Jonathan Davies

All of Davies’ last seven caps have come at No 12, with Wayne Pivac employing him in a new hard-carrying, hard-hitting role.

In those games, he has played inside George North, Nick Tompkins and Willis Halaholo.

But North is sidelined through injury, in-form Saracens centre Tompkins is one of the unavailable England-based contingent and Halaholo was ruled out just this week after testing positive for Covid.

So Davies finds himself back in the No 13 jersey which he has worn with such distinction for Wales and the Lions for the best part of a decade and where he has been playing for the Scarlets this term.

He will bring his trademark defensive organisation there and his jack-hammer hand-offs. The challenge will be dealing with the pace of the All Blacks outside runner, as he brings all his 91 caps of experience to the party.

12. Johnny Williams

It’s worth remembering that Williams was actually Wales’ first-choice inside centre at the beginning of this year.

After making a very promising international debut during the autumn, he was then selected for the Six Nations opener against Ireland.

But his Championship campaign was to last just 23 minutes due to a bang to the head in Dublin, with his season then being cut short by shoulder surgery.

He’s been somewhat overshadowed this term by Scott Williams’ return to the Scarlets, but Scott missed out on the initial squad and then Willis Halaholo was ruled out through contracting Covid.

So we come full circle back to the start of the year, with Johnny Williams providing his direct running and strong defence on cap number four.

On the bench, young Ben Thomas will provide a different kind of option as a playmaking inside centre.

11. Josh Adams

Pretty much the one member of the back-line who has been a nailed on starter all along.

Adams’ omission from the first two Lions Tests in South Africa was something of a mystery, given he had scored eight tries in the warm-up games.

But, provided he was fit, he was always going to start for Wales and he has proved both his fitness and his form during his recent outings for Cardiff.

10. Gareth Anscombe

What a fairytale story this is.

Some 881 days after suffering a career-halting knee ligament injury playing for Wales against England, Anscombe is back on the international stage and lining up against the country where he grew up.

He’s been through some dark days along the way, but has shown huge fight and determination.

The assured form he has shown for the Ospreys after more than two years out has been really impressive and that has got him the nod ahead of Rhys Priestland, with the two Six Nations fly-halves - Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy - both unavailable for this game through playing in England.

9. Tomos Williams

Had injuries not derailed him last season, Williams may well have made the Lions tour because he has that much talked about X-Factor.

He has demonstrated those special talents for Cardiff this season, with his performance against Connacht an absolute gem, in particular.

So he earns the starting spot ahead of Lion Gareth Davies, whose force of nature presence will be on hand via the bench.

The scrum-half position has been something of a revolving door with the Wales team under Pivac, with Kieran Hardy, Rhys Webb and Lloyd Williams also employed there.

But Tomos Williams now has the opportunity to deliver a display that demands a run in the role.

1. Wyn Jones

It’s been some rise for Jones over the last five years, from Llandovery to the Lions.

He is now firmly established as one of the foremost loosehead props in the business, providing both scrum stability and invaluable work over the ball at the breakdown.

On the back of a Lions tour of South Africa that further enhanced his reputation, he will have a key role to play.

Bench back-up is provided Carre, who deserves his inclusion having really caught the eye with his physical presence for Cardiff this season.

2. Ryan Elias

With Ken Owens having failed a fitness test and his regular international understudy Elliot Dee having left the camp due to a neck injury, it’s Owens' Scarlets back-up, Ryan Elias, who starts at hooker.

It will be Elias' 20th cap and his ninth start, but his biggest game yet.

Having been called into camp due to Dee's departure, Cardiff's uncapped Kirby Myhill now moves on to the bench.

3. Tomas Francis

Moving from Exeter to the Ospreys meant the 57-cap Francis remained eligible for Wales under the WRU 60-cap rule and that’s a big boost because he’s such a valued member of the team.

You often feel his contribution doesn’t receive the credit it is due. It really shouldn’t be underrated, not just in terms of being a scrum cornerstone, but also his work-rate in defence and at the ruck and maul coal-face.

With Leon Brown injured, Dillon Lewis gets the nod as tighthead back-up, which means WillGriff John’s wait for that elusive first cap continues.

4. Adam Beard

The Ospreys lock provided the perfect response to those who questioned and criticised his call-up to the Lions tour in place of the injured Alun Wyn Jones.

People should have known better because this is a man who has played a key part in two Six Nations title-winning campaigns.

He proceeded to more than justify his selection out in selection, delivering his trademark all-arms maul defence and also contributing with ball-in-hand.

Will have a crucial role to play against New Zealand, making the calls at the lineout which he helped sort out last season.

With Jake Ball and Cory Hill both having departed for foreign fields, Will Rowlands now gets his chance on the bench having shown up well since arriving at the Dragons from Wasps.

5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)

Provided further proof over the summer that he is not like other men, showing up in South Africa just three weeks after dislocating his shoulder and going on to lead the Lions into a titanic Test tussle with the ‘Boks.

He’s now fully fit again and showing no sign of his appetite, hunger or work ethic waning having turned 36 month.

As he wins a remarkable 149th Welsh cap, he will have a big job on his hands as he rallies a depleted team for one of the biggest challenges in sport, but who else would you want for the job.

6. Ross Moriarty

With the luckless Josh Navidi having suffered a shoulder dislocation which will keep him out for five months and Dan Lydiate not just back from a serious knee injury, Moriarty is the man to provide the physicality and aggression on the blindside flank.

He is looking in good nick and won’t be holding anything back as he moves within one cap of his half century.

7. Taine Basham

The biggest day of his young life beckons.

With Justin Tipuric, summer starter James Botham and Josh Macleod all crocked, now was the time to test out Wales’ much-vaunted depth on the openside.

Who would get the nod? Well the newly-eligible Thomas Young was out of the equation for this one through playing in England, while Ellis Jenkins isn’t quite over his popped rib cartilage yet.

So opportunity knocks for the 21-year-old Basham, who makes his first start after three bench outings in July.

He comes in on the back of some outstanding performances for the Dragons and will bring real dynamism as he offers the ball carrying and handling Pivac is looking for from his No 7.

8. Aaron Wainwright

Warren Gatland tended to employ Wainwright as a blindside, but Pivac sees him as more of a No 8, with his ability to use his athleticism off the base of the scrum.

So with Taulupe Faletau among the excluded English contingent, it’s a big chance for the 24-year-old to deliver the goods as he wins his 32nd cap in an all-Dragons back row.

With Ellis Jenkins not quite ready yet, it’s second row Seb Davies who provides the breakaway cover on the bench.

Davies has appeared in the back row for Wales before, but he is very much re-established as a lock with Cardiff.

Given the limited numbers, it’s somewhat surprising there was no call up for a specialist, such as in-form Ospreys openside Jac Morgan.

Wales: 15. Johnny McNicholl; 14. Owen Lane, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Johnny Williams, 11. Josh Adams; 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Tomos Williams; 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 6. Ross Moriarty, 7. Taine Basham, 8. Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Rhys Carre, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Will Rowlands, 20. Seb Davies, 21. Gareth Davies, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Ben Thomas.