With most domestic action either over or on hold for a month the rugby world’s eyes turn to international action. Here is my preview of the major tours and a quick look at some of the other international action taking place.
The time when players would be rested over a summer and that under strength squads would get on the plane are long gone. The seeding for the Rugby World Cup in Japan being set by World Ranking points has put paid to that. The group of death including Australia, England and Wales along with Fiji and Uruguay has brought this much more to the public’s attention.
Australia host England
11 Jun Australia v England
18 Jun Australia v England
25 Jun Australia v England
I know I’m English but I think that this is the biggest and most competitive of the big June International tours. Both sides are in a state of transition post Rugby World Cup. Australia have seen a host of stars retire or at least head overseas.
England are still seeing what Eddie Jones’s vision is for the team and if he has answers for the key back-row and centre questions. I wrote my thoughts on the England squad earlier so I won’t go over that.
As you can see from the poll below, England have only ever beaten Australia 3 times in Australia in over a century. One of those was the Rugby World Cup final and that team registered the first not long before that tournament. The other was in 2010 and there are some of that team still around. Basically the message is that for England to win this series they will have to do something that has never been achieved before.
I wrote a piece for Green and Gold Rugby called 5 Reasons England will beat the Wallabies.
New Zealand host Wales
11 Jun New Zealand v Wales
18 Jun New Zealand v Wales
25 Jun New Zealand v Wales
The All Blacks are heading into the post Richie and Dan era. I think that the loss of Nonu is going to be felt more though. I’ll be posting a piece looking at the areas of weakness that Wales might be able to target over the next couple of days. But suffice to say that Hansen has been building for this day over the last few years. There aren’t the single points of failure in the All Blacks that there used to be that cause national angst if Carter got injured for example. Yes there is a period of transition but it’s been taking place for about 4 years already.
Wales have never won in New Zealand and New Zealand at most, lose one game a year, so any thoughts of a series win are a dream. Added to that Wales are coming in on some poor form after many of us thought that they would win the 6 Nations and recently losing a one-off test to England. So a single victory would be major upset and the best we can really hope for is to see progression into a more expansive game from Wales.
South Africa host Ireland
11 Jun South Africa v Ireland
18 Jun South Africa v Ireland
25 Jun South Africa v Ireland
South Africa are another side in transition both with a new coach but also to meet certain quotas. If you listen to some people it’s affecting selection whilst others will tell you all the players are there on merit. It’s hard to have a view from outside on such a complex topic and all I hope is that the squad are unified and play their best.
Ireland have never won in South Africa as the largest group of people got in the below poll. Add to that the late losses of Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney and it really looks like being a long hard tour. I think that this again highlights when Schmidt has really failed. I expected them to make the Rugby World Cup final but the loss of around 5 players to injury put paid to that. Ireland have a wonderful first choice side but lack the depth when they lose a couple of key players. With retirements as well it’s a rebuilding phase for Ireland and it’s going to be a struggle for them to come away with anything from this tour.
Argentina host Italy and France
11 Jun Argentina v Italy
18 Jun Argentina v France
25 Jun Argentina v France
Argentina are entering a new era where they have a fully professional side a home to support the national team. The Jags will be providing the majority of the players as the French based players will still be involved in Top14 action. The Jags haven’t had great form and with so many of them making up the national side it’s going to be interesting if that form will carry over. At least they won’t have the travel to deal with this month.
Italy are first up and shouldn’t provide that stiff opposition. Again they will be impacted by players not being available and I can only see a home win. Italy go on to play USA and Canada and those games will give them the opportunity to build momentum and experience in-depth.
France is a difficult one as they will be the most impacted by the continuing Top14 action which still has 3 weeks to run. They had a poor 6 Nations and really are a nation in decliane on the international stage. Argentina will be looking for 2 wins to complete a clean sweep and give them confidence going in The Rugby Championship later in the year.
Japan host Scotland
11 Jun Canada v Japan
18 Jun Japan v Scotland
25 Jun Japan v Scotland
When I ran a poll on Twitter about Scotland’s record against Japan I incorrectly said that they had never toured there. They have toured and even played an unofficial test that Japan won, the highlights are below.
In official tests though the record is 5-0 to Scotland, as people got right in the poll above. Also as Scotland could get into the top 8 in the World Rankings, this is a tour that they are taking extremely seriously. Getting into and then staying in the top 8 would put them in the second group of seeds for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
This is a strange time for Japan as they are waiting for Jamie Joseph to finish his contract with the Highlanders before joining as coach. So Mark Hammett, who is the Sunwolves coach, will be standing in as coach. We are truly in the post Eddie Jones era and it will be very interesting if the new setup with the support now of Super Rugby and the Sunwolves can maintain the high standards we saw at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Pacific Nations & Georgia
11 Jun Fiji v Tonga
11 Jun Samoa v Georgia
18 Jun Fiji v Samoa
18 Jun Tonga v Georgia
25 Jun Samoa v Tonga
25 Jun Fiji v Georgia
Due to all the Pacific Island teams not automatically qualifying for the Rugby World Cup the Pacific Nations Cup has had to be abandoned/remodelled. For the whole convoluted qualification process have a read of a previous post.
Fiji won the Pacific Nations Cup last year and are the highest World Ranking team in 11th so you would expect them to go well especially as they play at home. Samoa came second in the Pacific Nations Cup but have dropped to 15th in the world and last out of these teams. It’s going to be interesting if they can use these games to climb back up as again they get two games at home. Tonga are ranked 13th and still don’t have a ground that’s allowed to host international games. That means Tonga will be playing away in all these games even against Georgia when they’ll host in Fiji instead. Having lost to Georgia at the Rugby World Cup last year it’s going to be interesting to see if they can bounce back. All the teams will be looking to get some good results for the first half of this Rugby World Cup qualification competition.
It’s interesting seeing Georgia getting 3 games against the Pacific Islands in what I would think is the most competitive set of games they have had in this window. It really does go to show that Georgia are being given the opportunities to grow in preparation for breaking into that Tier 1 group. This will be a really good test to see where they are after beating Tonga at the Rugby World Cup last year.
Other Tier 2 Tests
11 Jun Canada v Japan
13 Jun Uruguay v Romania
13 Jun Namibia v Spain
18 Jun Spain v Uruguay
18 Jun Argentina XV v Romania
18 Jun Canada v Russia
18 Jun USA v Italy
25 Jun USA v Russia
26 Jun Canada v Italy
There is a plethora of other international games going on including all the nations that made the Rugby World Cup last year. If you scan your eyes down the list though you will see that some teams have only 1 or 2 games. The teams really need to have the full three games so that the teams can progress.
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