We moving into the second week of the June Internationals and we have some great exciting test matches to look forward to as well.
Last week we did not see any real surprises with the stronger teams winning their test matches but this week could see a change in the guard as some of those test matches were very close.
The U20 World Championships will conclude this weekend with England and New Zealand that will fight it out for the title on Sunday as they respectively beaten South Africa and France in the semi-finals earlier this week.
Here is the games to look forward to from the U20 World Championship:
Under 20 Championship 11th Place: Samoa v Argentina 09:45 on SS1
Under 20 Championship 9th Place: Ireland v Georgia 10:45 on SS1
Under 20 Championship 5th Place: Scotland v Australia 12:15 on SS1
Under 20 Championship 3rd Place: South Africa v France 13:15 on SS1
Under 20 Championship Final: England v New Zealand 15:45 on SS1
First up will be Tonga that take on Wales in a double header at Eden Park on Friday, with the All Blacks playing later there first warm-up match before next weekend’s first lions test. Wales will be slightly weakened as some of their star players are in the Lions squad but this is a perfect place to breed the new generation Wales players against a good Island team in the Tongans.
Wales coach Robin McBryde has named eight uncapped players in his matchday 23 to face Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
Three of head coach McBryde’s eight debutants will start, including last season’s PRO12 top try-scorer Steffan Evans, who lines up on the left wing. Former Wales U20 forward Seb Davies will feature at lock, while European Player of the Year nominee Thomas Young packs down on the openside.
Gareth Davies and Sam Davies are named as the scrum-halves, with captain Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams filling the centre roles. Alex Cuthbert starts on the right wing, and Auckland native Gareth Anscombe at full-back.
The front row is comprised of Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis, as Cory Hill joins newcomer Davies in the second row. Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi are named at six and eight respectively.
Ellis Jenkins and Cory Allen are the only capped players on the bench, while Scarlets duo Wyn Jones and Ryan Elias and Cardiff Blues’ Dillon Lewis form the replacement front row. Newport Gwent Dragons back rower Ollie Griffiths, Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies and Gloucester-bound fly-half Owen Williams complete the bench.
Prediction: Wales to take this one by 16 points
Tonga – 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Nafi Tu’itavake, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Vili Tahitu’a, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Dan Faleafa, 5 Sitiveni Mafi, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Latu Talakai.
Subs: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Sila Puafisi, 18 Phil Kite, 19 Sione Tau, 20 Mike Faleafa, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Kali Hala, 23 Kiti Taimani.
Wales – 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts (c), 11 Steffan Evans, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ellis Jenkins, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Cory Allen.
All Black coach Hansen will be expecting his All Blacks side to hit the ground running on Friday as they prepare for the first test against the Lions when they face Samoa.
Highlanders and All Black number fifteen Ben Smith will lead the All Blacks against Samoa on Friday as he will be the 68th player to lead the mighty All Blacks. The team includes Hurricanes duo Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita, who set to make their Test debuts from the bench.
Another milestone in the match will go to Beauden Barrett as he will run out in his 50th Test. The match 23 sees World cup Winners Sonny bill Willians in his first game back for the All Blacks since the 2015 World Cup final and Harris also making a return to test rugby.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: “We’d like to congratulate everyone who has been selected for this Test, particularly ‘Benda’ (Ben Smith), who will captain the side for the first time.
He’s been our Vice-Captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he’s been doing a fantastic job, so was the logical choice. He leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates.
“It’s also going to be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they’re both likely to play a part on the night. They’ve both been in great form and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level.
“Whilst we asked for this game to help us prepare for the Lions series, once it became a reality, it then took on its own importance — this is a Test match against a quality and very capable opponent.
“Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more dangerous. The Samoans are always a challenge and will play with a high level of physicality and skill. At the very minimum, we will need to match that.
“This first week has been about bringing together the players from the five different Super clubs and reintroducing them to the All Blacks way. We’ve had a good week and are really looking forward to this match.
“It’s going to be a unique night with two Tests being played at the same venue featuring four teams that are well known to New Zealand fans. It’s a night that shouldn’t be missed, as I’m picking there will be a lot of great rugby played so get on down there and show your support.”
Samoa coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia has also announced his side for Friday’s Test match against the All Blacks as eight of the 23-man squad will be donning the famous blue jersey for the first time on Friday – though former Crusaders centre Kieron Fonotia is the only one who will feature in the starting XV.
29-year-old Fonotia will be making his debut alongside Stade Français prop Paul Alo Emile and Auckland scrum-half Auvasa Falealii, who are expected to be called on from the bench.
Joining the new boys is a swathe of established Test players who will balance out the arrival of the debutants with their experience, despite the absence of veterans David Lemi and midfielder Rey Lee-Io due to injury.
Ieremia said not starting so many debutants came about as a response to the threat of experimenting against the All Blacks.
“We are wanting to put on a performance that will make our nation and most importantly ourselves proud,” he said.
“Our performance will give us a ‘rugby barometer’ as to where are at – there is no better challenge and opportunity than playing the number one team in the world.
“This will give us an indication of where we are at, because it is important to build momentum going into June-July internationals.”
Eighteen of the players included ply their trade in the UK and France, with just five members of the squad based in the Southern Hemisphere. Tim Nanai-Williams is the only one who plays Super Rugby.
One can only see one winner here but this will be a hell of a match to watch as everyone is looking to see how the All Blacks will look on the field this year before they take on the Lions next week.
Prediction: All Blacks to win with 20 plus points
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett
Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi
The last match on Friday will be the first of two test between the South African”A” side and the French Barbarians. A few fridges players have been called up to the South African “A” side for Springbok coach Coetzee to have a look at a little bit closer.
South African ‘A’ coach Johan Ackermann has named seven Springboks in his squad to face the French Barbarians at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Ackermann earlier appointed Juan de Jongh (19 tests) as captain for the two match series against the French Baabaas and also included fellow Springboks Lwazi Mvovo (17 tests), Ruan Combrinck (7 tests), Jano Vermaak (3 tests) and Uzair Cassiem (1 test) in the run-on team, while Trevor Nyakane (28 tests) and Francois Venter (3 tests) are on the bench.
Eight other players – Lionel Cronje, Dewaldt Duvenage, Ruan Botha, Wilco Louw, Franco Marais, Thomas du Toit, Ox Nche and Jason Jenkins – represented the Junior Springboks earlier in their careers.
French Barbarians head coach Pierre Mignoni has named a strong starting XV for the clash against South Africa ‘A’
The side will be captained by Lyon’s former France fly-half Frédéric Michalak who forms a halfback pairing with Bordeaux-Bègles scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues.
Elsewhere in the back-line, Louis Dupichot of Pau starts at full-back while La Rochelle’s Gabriel Lacroix and Arthur Bonneval of Toulouse are the starting wings and Jonathan Danty and Jean-Baptiste Dubie, who play for Stade Français and Bordeaux-Bègles respectively, line up as the midfield combination.
Prediction: South Africa to take this one by 10 points
South Africa A – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Francois Venter.
French Barbarians – 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jonathan Danty, 12 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Frédéric Michalak (c) 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet, 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Subs: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Clément Ric, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Clément Poitrenaud.
Saturday test matches kick of with a great one in Australia as Scotland will take on the Aussies early Saturday morning.
Scotland have been saying all week that they are confident in beaten the Aussies in their own back yard which makes up for a great test match as the brave Scots will surely go out with all they got against Australia. It has not been an easy year for the Aussies as they have been dumb in threats of law-suits and their Super Rugby teams being well below par so far.
As a national side the Aussies is a different cattle of fish and they will not be a easy bet to go against come Saturday morning.
Reds wing Eto Nabuli will make his Test debut for the Wallabies as he replace the Fijian Henry Speight, who has been ruled out with a hamstring strain.
That is the only change to the Wallabies starting XV that beat Fiji 37-14 last weekend.
It seems there is still no place for the former Aussie captain Moore in the starting team as he was named on the bench again for Saturday test against the Scots.
Meanwhile, Scotland have made eight changes to the team that beat Italy 34-13, with entirely new back-three and front-row combinations.
Prediction: Aussies should take this by 15 points
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: TBC on Friday
Scotland – 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Subs: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott.
Next up will be the big one on Saturday as the New Zealand Maori side take on the struggling British and Irish Lions side who should be close to the test side that will take on the All Blacks next week in the first test.
Just after the Lions supporters though that they are back on track with their great win over the Crusaders last Saturday they came back this week and loose a game they should have won against the highlanders. One thing the Lions will need to learn and learn fast is that any New Zealand team are fit and willing to play 120 minutes or more.
The game is finish when that final whistle blow…
This will be as close as they will get to a test for the Lions and surely this match is a must win at all course for the visitors.
The Lions have a strong side to take on the Maori team and it will be as hard as nails on Saturday.
The Maori side have a few names that could have easily have been in the All Black squad which makes this an even harder test for the visitors. The closes you will get to an All Black side is to face the New Zealand Maori team and that is exactly what the Lions will have to do on Saturday.
Prediction: For some reason I think that the Lions will win this one by 9 points
New Zealand Maori – 15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson.
British & Irish Lions – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly.
The second test for the Springboks will be much tougher than last week in Pretoria not just because the French have 9 of their Top 14 finalist back in the frame but they would have learned a bit more about the Springboks in last weeks lost.
Coetzee decided to keep the same team as what did the work for him in Pretoria with only Mapoe coming into the midfield with the head injury to Kriel.
There were talks this week that Coetee may opt to move Serfontein to the 13 jumper and bring in Frans Steyn at 12 but it seems the coaching team decided to go with continuity rather than make too many changes.
All five players who made their Test debuts last weekend – Andries Coetzee (full-back), Raymond Rhule (right wing), Courtnall Skosan (left wing), Ross Cronje (scrum-half) and Dillyn Leyds (utility back) – were retained by Coetzee, who said he wanted to maintain continuity and build momentum.
“We kept changes to a minimum and one change to the squad means we can continue to work on our continuity, which is so important,” he said.
“This is a new group, so playing together again means that the important combinations are gaining more experience. It is also nice to reward good performances and all of them deserve another opportunity.”
Upfront the Springboks will have a massive onslaught from the French and they still have no real fetcher in the team which could be a mistake going into this test match.
Although the Springboks did not loose the set pieces as such last week they also did not dominated it and we can expect a 40% improvement from the French in Durban this weekend.
Guilhem Guirado at two and Jefferson Poirot at number one will be a hand full and the Springboks will have to expect a tough old battle in the scrums with the French captain leading the way.
Prediction: It will be a huge improvement from France but the Springboks should still win this test giving the win to them with 6 points
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds
15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifeuna, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Julien le Devedec, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Nans Ducuing
It will be something of a pride thing for the Argentinians as well as to get a win at home on Saturday when they face England in the second test.
Each side’s respective defence coach might have not enjoyed reviewing the tape but England’s win ticked all the entertainment boxes, settled late on by Denny Solomona’s ultimate act of redemption with that solo try.
No wonder Argentina were spitting at the outcome, having been in a position to win the game after Juan Martín Hernández’s drop goal and after producing some sensational attacking rugby.
Daniel Hourcade will have been fuming but it certanily makes the task of motivating his team this week a lot easier. Making just one change to his side, the addition of Ramiro Moyano on the wing in place of Matías Moroni, the same group of players have been given a chance to make amends.
He explained: “We had control, but we lost and that gave us a lot of anger. We have focussed on being more precise and when we make mistakes we need to react faster so that [England] do not hurt us.”
Accuracy with ball in hand isn’t always easy to achieve when playing at the tempo Argentina have produced in recent years, but there is certainly room to be more accurate. Defence – making 62 tackles out of 79 last week – and the lineout with ten wins from 13 both need work.
As for England, Eddie Jones happily welcomes back Chris Robshaw to his back row but will be intrigued at how Piers Francis, making his first start, and Sam Underhill on debut get on.
Francis is starting to look like an excellent bit of business for Northampton Saints, with Blues supporters unhappy to see him leave and the well-travelled 26-year-old acquitting himself well on his first cap.
Underhill will be under slightly more pressure. The 20-year-old Bath-bound flanker has been hailed as England’s solution at number seven for close to two years now, the traditional style of fetcher that English rugby has lacked for some time.
His efforts for the Ospreys, and the consequent race for his signature along with Jones’ public approval, mean that expectation levels are higher than normal for Underhill. High hopes are warranted.
Win or lose, Jones is sure to be delighted at having built some depth and to have learned about a number of new and young players.
The Curry twins, Nick Isiekwe, Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Maunder might have all been with the U20s in Georgia over the last few weeks. The experience they will have gained with the senior group will have been of huge benefit moving forward.
Better off in terms of personnel for the return of Robshaw and with Underhill at seven – not that Tom Curry disgraced himself by any means last week – England look in a strong position to make it two from two on tour.
Prediction: As motivated as Argentina will be for revenge, England look strong at the breakdown this week and should be tipped to pick up a 20th win in 21 Tests under Eddie Jones. Argentina by 10
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertanou, 22 Juan Martín Hernández, 23 Matías Moroni
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Collier, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Denny Solomona
Other internationals taking place this weekend:
||ANZ National Stadium, Suva
||Ellerslie Rugby Park
||Fifth Third Bank Stadium
The World Club 10s are also on this weekend which will fill the spaces between all the test matches.
The World Club 10’s is an 8-team, 10 aside invitational tournament featuring leading professional clubs from around the world including the Toyota Cheetahs, Western Force, Africa Pasic Dragons, Harlequins, Plus500 Brumbies, Vodacom Blue Bulls, Pyrenees and Bubota Spears.
The tournament is being held on the beautiful island of Mauritius and will feature clubs from all the greatest leagues in the world including Super Rugby, The English Premiership and France’s Top 14. The Stadium will have a real party atmosphere with music and entertainment all day including a fanzone just outside featuring food and drink stalls, a music stage and various other activities for fans.
Each Squad consists of 16 players, with 10 players on the field at a time. The matches consist of two 10-minute halves with a 2 minute half time.
The team is made up of 5 forwards (3 in the Front row, and 2 in the 2nd row), with 5 backs. In short the 10s format allows the traditional virtues of Rugby as a game for all shapes and sizes, and ensures that specialist positions of the XVs format are showcased in a shortened format.
The World Club 10s provides a Tournament which Professional teams play
alongside non-professional and social players compete in an environment that only the great sport Rugby Union can create.
The World Club 10s will be on Super Sport, you can get the full broadcast schedule on their website
The SuperSport Challenge is also ongoing here is the weekend matches….
||Eastern Province Kings
||BCM Stadium, East London
||Tafel Lager Park
||Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
||Olen Park, Potchefstroom
||Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek
Test matches will start on Friday morning already with three matches to look forward to….