Gareth Anscombe and Hadleigh Parkes: Wales' New Zealand-made midfield

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Sport Wales
Gareth Anscombe (right) with Hadleigh Parkes
Gareth Anscombe (right) made his Wales debut in 2015, while Hadleigh Parkes (left) made his in 2017
Under Armour Series: Wales v Australia
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 10 November Kick-off: 17:20 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, S4C, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website and app.

Hadleigh Parkes and Gareth Anscombe have only started three Tests together for Wales, but they have an understanding. You could tell in their win over Scotland, as it was their passing combination which led to each of Wales' two tries.

For the first, centre Parkes found himself in the unusual role of scrum-half. With characteristic efficiency and understatement he fed fly-half Anscombe, who in turn set George North surging over the line.

For the second Parkes was again in a different position, popping up at first receiver where, once again with minimal fuss, he found Anscombe, whose delayed pass set Jonathan Davies racing clear.

Both were impressive scores, both the products of a partnership years in the making.

They may have only started playing international rugby together this year but Wales' incumbent 12 and 10 first lined up in the same side almost a decade ago.

That was in New Zealand, where they were both born, first with Auckland and then with Super Rugby side Blues.

From there, however, they took off in different directions, with Parkes signing for Southern Kings in South Africa and Anscombe staying in New Zealand to join the Chiefs.

The fly-half, whose mother is Welsh, then moved to Cardiff Blues in 2014 and made his debut for Wales the following year.

It was a longer route to the red jersey for Parkes, who also came to Wales in 2014 to sign for Scarlets, but not with an immediate view to playing international rugby.

He had to wait three years for that, and after becoming eligible under the three-year residency rule last December, he scored two tries on his debut against South Africa.

Parkes is now an established figure in the Welsh midfield and, in Anscombe, he has a familiar voice calling the shots by his side at fly-half.

"Chicken [Anscombe] and I are pretty good mates," says Parkes.

"We played for four years together at Auckland in the ITM Cup. We also had one season at Auckland Blues together before he went to the Chiefs and I went elsewhere.

"It's a good relationship and one we're enjoying. It's awesome to see him given his opportunity as he's been going well for the [Cardiff] Blues.

"I'm sure he's loving it and hopefully he can put in another good performance this weekend."

Gareth Anscombe (10) and Hadleigh Parkes (right)
Gareth Anscombe (10) and Hadleigh Parkes (right) combine for Auckland to tackle Waikato's Sam Christie in 2012

Next for Wales is Saturday's encounter with Australia, a team they have not beaten since 2008.

Parkes looks well set to win his 10th cap, while Anscombe faces competition from the returning Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell - as well as Blues team-mate Jarrod Evans - to keep his place.

"Hadleigh and I are pretty good mates and it is nice to line up with him again in a red jersey," says Anscombe.

"It has come a long way. He's a pretty calm head.

"If someone had told me this four years ago, we would never have believed them.

"Hopefully we can continue to carry on our partnerships and hopefully when we get the ball in our hands, we can cause a bit of trouble.

"We will grow our combinations. We can be pretty excited about taking on the Wallabies next week."

Wales have endured a miserable decade against Australia, losing their past 13 games against them, often by painfully narrow margins and will face them in the pool stage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Having never faced the Wallabies for Wales, Parkes is free of any of the psychological baggage that such a losing run may bring.

And having only played in one of those defeats, Anscombe is relatively unscarred compared to some of his team-mates.

Wales will be desperate to finally halt that sequence and, given their New Zealand upbringings, Anscombe and Parkes have a little added motivation to get one over Australia.

"They're the dirty ones on that side," Parkes jokes.

"They're competitors aren't they, the Australians. I grew up fascinated by the Aussie cricket side and the amazing era they had.

"There was their rugby team as well at that time with John Eales, George Gregan and Stephen Larkham. They are a very good, skilful team, one who are getting better and better at the moment with each match.

"It would be very nice [to win], wouldn't it? I can't speak too much about what's gone on beforehand, but with the big year that's to come it would be nice.

"The boys would be absolutely stoked. We want to get a win against a pretty big enemy of Welsh rugby and one of the biggest rivals Welsh rugby has. It would be amazing."

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