The week see the start for the June Internationals and we have a few great matches to look forward to throughout the weekend.
The major focus point was on New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions touring there but we have also the Aussies playing Fiji this weekend, Italy and Scotland, England touring Argentina and the Springbok hosting the French as well. In between the U20 World Championships are also playing out in Georgia.
We also have one Super Rugby match between Hurricanes and Chiefs slam-bang in the middle of all of it on Friday morning
This is a very important time for Springbok coach Coetzee and a must win test series against the French to try and make the wrongs of last year right this time around.
Here is a look at the schedule for the weekend’s test matches and Thursdays round three matches in the U20 World Championship.
8 June 2017 – Wales v Samoa 10:45 live on SS1
8 June 2017 – Scotland v Italy 10:45 live on SS5
8 June 2017 – Argentina v South Africa 13:15 live on SS1
8 June 2017 – Ireland v New Zealand 13:15 live on SS5
8 June 2017 – France v Georgia 15:45 live on SS1
8 June 2017 – England v Australia 18:15 live on SS1
9 June 2017 – Hurricanes v Chiefs 09:35 live on SS1
There will be plenty at stake when the Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington, in the weekend’s only Super Rugby match.
With the unbeaten Crusaders sitting pretty at the top of the New Zealand Conference standings, the Hurricanes and Chiefs are fighting for the first wildcard qualifier position.
The Hurricanes are currently second, ten points adrift of the tabletoppers and four ahead of the Chiefs although both these sides have played a match less than the men from Christchurch.
This sets the scene for what promises to be an entertaining affair between two brilliant attacking sides.
The Hurricanes, in particular, have thrilled on attack and just last week, they scored six tries in their win over Western Force in Perth and in doing so, they set a new Super Rugby try-scoring record.
The defending champions have scored 83 tries so far this season, surpassing the previous competition record of 81 tries scored by the Lions in 2016. Their 26 tries conceded are also the second fewest of any team in the competition this season behind the Lions (25).
The Hurricanes have also made the most line breaks (201) while the Chiefs are seventh with 159. The men from Wellington are in second place – behind the Crusaders – for metres gained (7045) and the Chiefs are sixth in that category (6116).
Both sides also possess potent attacking threats who can change the course of a match with moments of brilliance. Chiefs duo Damian McKenzie (1260) and James Lowe (1001) are two of just three players – along with the Crusaders’ David Havili (1111) – who have gained more than 1,000 metres so far this season.
Nine of the last 11 New Zealand derbies played on a Friday night have been decided by a margin of nine points or fewer, while the Chiefs have lost just one of their last eight such fixtures, winning six and drawing one.
The Hurricanes have won 25 of their last 29 Super Rugby fixtures, including each of their last three, though two of their four losses in that span have come against the Chiefs.
2017: Chiefs won 26-18 in Hamilton
2016: Hurricanes won 25-9 in Wellington
2016: Chiefs won 28-27 in Wellington
2015: Hurricanes won 21-13 in New Plymouth
2015: Hurricanes won 22-18 in Wellington
2014: Chiefs won 24-16 in Hamilton
2014: Hurricanes won 45-8 in Wellington
2013: Chiefs won 34-22 in Hamilton
Prediction: Tend to go with Hurricanes to win by 7 points
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli/James O’Reilly, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie. 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson
10 June 2017 – Australia v Fiji 06:45 live on SS1
10 June 2017 – Crusaders v British & Irish Lions 09:15 live on SS1
10 June 2017 – Italy v Scotland 13:45 live on SS1
10 June 2017 – South Africa v France 1st Test 16:00 live on SS1
10 June 2017 – Argentina v England 1st Test 21:00 live on SS1
10 June 2017 – USA v Ireland 1ste Test 23:05 live on SS1
Australia clash with Fiji in a South Pacific derby in the first game of their three-match series in Melbourne on Saturday.
Michael Hooper will captain the Wallabies against Fiji, with usual skipper Stephen Moore left out of the XV, in favour of Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Hooper is the only survivor from the last Wallabies forward pack lineup that played England in December, and one of just five from the run-on team that day to play against Fiji.
Force hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is lining up in the number two spot, a selection Michael Cheika said was partly based on form, just a fortnight after publicly backing Moore to be the captain for all three June Tests.
“Tatafu has been challenging Stephen for the number two jersey for many years and his form has warranted his selection. Stephen is our captain and he’ll be up to the challenge of what both Tatafu and Tolu will bring this series,” he said.
“We’re growing a young leadership team within our side and Michael is a key man in this. His leadership at the Tahs has been exceptional this year and we expect the same on Saturday for a big home Test against a very strong Fiji side.”
Moore’s omission is not the only front row surprise, with Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa preferred over Sekope Kepu to start in the clash.
Waratahs young gun Ned Hanigan has been named to debut at six after a whirlwind Super Rugby year, with Scott Higginbotham at number eight in his first Test since 2015.
Higginbotham was not a part of any of Cheika’s preliminary Wallabies camps but his form for the Reds has propelled him into the Wallabies fold for this Test.
Henry Speight’s form has earned him a start against his nation of birth, with Dane Haylett-Petty keeping his spot on the other wing.
Israel Folau will remain at full-back for the Wallabies as well, after cementing himself back in the 15 spot this season.
Cheika said he had looked closely at single players’ Super Rugby form in his picks for this opening Test, against what will likely be a young Fiji side.
“I have been very pleased with some of the individual performances this season and this has really been the basis of many of these selections,” he explained.
“It’s been great to see the energy that Ned and Karmichael have brought this week. We know Test footy is a different beast and I know they have what it takes to step up.”
Meanwhile, Fiji head coach John McKee has named a powerful side which includes three international debutants in Jale Vatubua, Viliame Mata and local based Kalivati Tawake.
“I have been able to select a very strong and experienced team to take on the Wallabies in Melbourne on Saturday. My congratulations go to all the players and especially the three new caps, Jale Vatubua, Viliame Mata and Kalivati Tawake,” said McKee.
“Preparation in Melbourne has been very good. I could definitely feel an increase in focus at training today as the players prepare for this important test match.
“This Test against Australia will be a big challenge for us. With this challenge comes opportunity for players to make their mark with their performance for Fiji and for all of our supporters at home and overseas.
“This challenge presents a great opportunity for Fiji to make their mark in world rugby with a top class performance against the number three nation in the world.”
“If we can be our best, individually and as a team, in this match I believe we can push Australia all the way.”
2015: Australia won 28-13 in Cardiff
2010: Australia won 49-3 in Canberra
2007: Australia won 55-12 in Montpellier
2007: Australia won 49-0 in Perth
1998: Australia won 66-20 in Sydney
1985: Australia won 31-9 in Sydney
1985: Australia won 52-28 in Brisbane
1984: Australia won 16-3 in Suva
Prediction: Try as they may, expect the Fijians to put in a passionate performance here but it won’t be enough. Australia by 30.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Henry Speight, 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
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera (c), 7 Naulia Dawai, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Peni Ravai, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Maáfu
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nemani Nagusa, 22 Seurpepeli Vularika, 23 Benito Masilevu
Date: Saturday, June 10
After losing to the weakest New Zealand franchise, the British and Irish Lions now face the best in the form of the Crusaders on Saturday.
Many expected it to be tough against the Super Rugby franchises, but after a difficult outing against the Provincial Barbarians, a defeat to the Blues has still sent shockwaves through the tourists, management and their supporters. How they respond is going to be key to confidence.
A loss in Christchurch, especially with the team Warren Gatland has picked, would be another psychological setback for the Lions, of that there is no doubt. Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams, George North, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong and Mako Vunipola all come in, which was expected before the Blues defeat, but it is on the bench that creates interest as several big names are called upon once again.
Losing to a Blues side that has so often struggled to get over the finish line in Super Rugby has clearly given the Lions a jolt to their system and the sight of those seven top quality players emerging late on could play a significant role, Gatland will hope a victorious one.
But what they face is a squad rejuvenated following Scott Robertson’s arrival in the hot-seat. He took over from now Bath head coach Todd Blackadder ahead of this season and it’s been an outstanding 2017 thus far, with 14 wins from 14 seeing them set the pace in Super Rugby.
They have managed this without the services of Israel Dagg, Kieran Read, Seta Tamanivalu and Richie Mo’unga for large chunks of the year, which is testament to the depth in quality the side has. Recent All Black training call-up Jack Goodhue is one to hit the ground running.
Beating this Crusaders team has suddenly become a hugely difficult proposition and it’s interesting to see how the bookmakers have slashed their pre-tour odds from 15/8 down to 8/11 on a home win. This is another indication of the depth of quality currently playing in the country and if the Lions aren’t firing it will be back-to-back losses to Super Rugby sides, with more difficult games coming thick and fast. Then the knives will really be out.
Players to watch:
For Crusaders: He’s been taking the mid-to-late season by storm since returning from a hand injury. Crusaders fly-half Richie Mo’unga is a special talent and is sure to fill the gap left by Aaron Cruden when he leaves the All Black setup for the Top 14. Mo’unga’s running game has sliced opposition defences to pieces on numerous occasions in 2017 and we hope, for the Lions sake, they’ve done their homework on him. Also keep an eye on Codie Taylor at hooker who, with Dane Coles still on the sidelines, has a shot to put down a marker for the Test side.
For British and Irish Lions: A first Lions outing for George North, Jonathan Davies and Sean O’Brien on Saturday and all will be eager to hit the ground running following the team’s recent loss. This trio are more than capable of making the Test line-up and know that winning personal battles against their opposite numbers will be a must in Christchurch if they are to do so. Owen Farrell is also a vital player.
Head-to-head: Up front for this one as All Black Owen Franks takes on Mako Vunipola. Both are world class operators and the Lions will be eager to continue their scrum dominance they showed against the Blues this weekend. Franks is a stronger set-piece operator than Charlie Faumuina and is likely to start the first Test, but out of Vunipola and Jack McGrath remains a hard decision to call. Saturday could help decide Gatland’s mind as we all know Vunipola’s qualities in open play. Back it up with a dominant showing at the scrum and he’s surely in.
Prediction: Familiarity and confidence could play a big role on Saturday and while the Lions look strong, we go for the Crusaders by three.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Tim Bateman
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Anthony Watson
Scotland face off against Italy in a Six Nations repeat and the first game of a three-match series at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.
The Scotland starting side features nine changes (six forwards, three backs) to that which defeated the Azzurri 29-0 in the final match of the 2017 Six Nations, two of which replace the three absentees – Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw and Tommy Seymour – currently on duty with the British and Irish Lions.
Seymour and Hogg’s places are taken by Damien Hoyland (wing) and Duncan Taylor (full-back), with the latter making a welcome return to the national team for the first time since last year’s summer tour to Japan.
Most eyes of course will be on Gregor Townsend, the new Scotland head coach taking over from Vern Cotter with Scotland welcomingly on a high at the end of the Kiwi’s time in charge.
Tim Swinson’s reveal this week that training has been faster and more intense outlines Townsend’s plans for Scotland, with the former fly-half set to bring Glasgow’s expansive style to the Test arena.
Expectations are high for Townsend having guided Glasgow to a PRO12 title in 2015 followed by the Scottish side becoming an established force in the Champions Cup, particualrly this season.
Hogg, Seymour and Laidlaw might be away with the Lions but there are plenty of welcome returnees, the inclusion of WP Nel with the impressive Zander Fagerson showing plenty of depth in the Scottish front row.
“We’re delighted to see WP Nel back fit for Scotland and full of confidence after playing a game for the Barbarians a couple of weeks back,” Townsend said.
“Ben Toolis hasn’t been involved in a while and has earned the chance to start in the second-row, while Josh [Strauss] is back fit and raring to go. Similarly John Hardie has made a full recovery and played very well at the end of the season for Edinburgh.”
As for the Azzurri, life for Conor O’Shea in his first season was certainly up and down, having started well with those wins over the USA and Canada and of course South Africa last November.
The overhaul of Italian rugby from a national perspective regarding the country’s young talent and getting the right structure is a long-term project, but for O’Shea the priority at the top remains to make Italy competitive again, something which cannot be said for their Six Nations campaign, save for ‘The Fox’ against England.
Defence was Italy’s worst enemy in the Six Nations, conceding 22 tries, with O’Shea desperate for signs of improvement in that area and the emergence of key players not named Sergio Parisse.
The Italian captain has been rested for the June Tests, and is not getting any younger at 33, with O’Shea on the lookout for new leaders and attacking threats.
Maxime Mbanda might be the best player to bring that physical impact in the back row, while Tommaso Boni, winning just a third cap at inside centre, and uncapped players in lock Dean Budd and hooker Luca Bigi can all help to add depth to Italy’s resources.
From O’Shea’s perspective, the 29-0 defeat in the Six Nations to Scotland is nowhere near a try reflection of what Italy stand for. Prove it on Saturday and there will be the start of possibly many believers.
He said on Thursday: “We are a good rugby team, we are working to build our future and we are making the necessary changes, but we know we are judged by what we do on the field, not by what we leave in ten years. But, today, we both are and can be much more competitive than many people believe.”
2017: Scotland won 29-0 in Edinburgh
2016: Scotland won 36-20 in Rome
2015: Scotland won 48-7 in Edinburgh
2015: Scotland won 16-12 in Torino
2015: Italy won 22-19 in Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 21-20 in Rome
2013: Scotland won 30-29 in Pretoria
2013: Scotland won 34-10 in Edinburgh
Prediction: Scotland should have too much firepower for the Italians and continue their recent impressive form. Scotland by 15.
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori (c), 8 Robert Julian Barbieri, 7 Maxime Mata Mbanda, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Andries van Schalkwyk, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti
Scotland: 15 Duncan Taylor, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Ryan Wilson, 22 Henry Pyrgos, 23 Peter Horne
This start for the Coetzee Springbok will be so important to set the scene for the 2017 season and give us the hope that we can put the 2016 season behind us and never speak about it again.
Some may say this will be the most important match in Coetzee coaching career and a lost on Saturday against the French will surely spell the end to his Springbok coaching career.
Coetzee don’t just have to make sure of winning this test but also need to look at Governments target of 50% players of color in the team. He went out and reach 35% for his first team announcement this year when he named Rhule, Skosan, Jantjies, Mahoje, Kolisi and Mtawarira in his team with Mbonambi and Leyds on the bench.
If we look at how we going to get to 50% in 2019 Coetzee must start getting targets of 40% this year.
Coetzee did have a few positions which he has a long list of injuries and the worst is at his number ten position with only Jantjies as a recognized flyhalf in the squad.
The other problem Coetzee has with his team is that he has no real out and out fetcher which is something one cannot really play these days with out. He may be able to get away with it against the French but it is something which will be worrying against the All Blacks and Aussies.
He did went with mostly Lions players in his team for Saturday which will please most supporters and gave four players there chance to get their first Springbok cap on Saturday.
Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje will get their first start for the Springboks and all eyes will be on them to see if they can make the step-up.
Frans Steyn will play from the bench and this will be the first time he plays for the Boks since 2014.
Coetzee has opted for combinations in key positions, with Jantjies playing alongside his Lions team-mate Cronje, the Bulls’ Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel in the midfield and the Johannesburg-duo of Andries Coetzee and Skosan in the back trio, where they will be joined by Rhule, who will earn his first start although he was previously a member of the Springbok touring squad.
“We have gone for settled combinations and selected players for the starting fifteen who have trained well with us,” explained Coetzee.
“They are in good form so far this season and they will be battle-ready. It is a great opportunity for our uncapped players to cement their places in the team.”
The French is somewhat of an unknown team and after Saturday we will see how this young French team shape up against the Springboks.
Predictions: Springboks must go out and dominate from the start and if they can do that the game will be there’s with at least 12 points.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 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
Substitutes: 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 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Loann Goujon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Yoann Maestri (captain), 4 Julien le Devedec, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Clément Maynadier, 1 Jefferson Poirot
Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Kévin Gourdon, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Vincent Rattez
England return to Argentina for the first time since 2013, kicking off a two-Test series in San Juan this Saturday.
Four years ago, England’s top players were also with the British and Irish Lions, on tour in Australia, and of interest is which of those players from that tour have progressed to be part of the Lions, or find themselves back in Argentina.
Jonathan Joseph, Joe Marler and Courtney Lawes have all made the step up, joining the Lions in New Zealand four years on. Only Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May are back from the group of 2013.
The two sides’ fortunes have come and gone since that series, Argentina peaking at the 2015 Rugby World Cup when England suffered disaster, with England since winning back-to-back Six Nations titles and Argentina enduring a tough 2016.
Early optimism about the Jaguares progress in Super Rugby has faded away, and given the entirety of the Argentina squad is made up of players from the franchise, a knock-on effect when it comes to form and confidence cannot be dismissed.
England on the other hand are very much using this tour with an eye on the future, hence the very high number of uncapped players that have made the trip.
Winning under Eddie Jones has become commonplace, with one defeat in 18 matches, and while the Australian will certainly not want to lose that culture, this tour is more about building England’s player base than picking up victories.
The threats posed by a trip to Argentina have changed too. Los Pumas are not the one-dimensional scrummaging powerhouse of old. Yet especially watching the Jaguares, the enthusiasm to put width on the ball too often produces handling errors.
With only three wins in their last 12 Tests, a run which includes a 27-0 defeat at home to France last June, there is no doubting that Argentina need to win this series more than their visitors.
Daniel Hourcade’s ability to name a settled side with just one new cap in Emiliano Boffelli, against an England team largely playing together for the first time, might turn out to be the key advantage.
Ten new caps for England’s matchday squad is a bold, exciting move from Jones, who win or lose will learn plenty about the new faces in an imposing atmosphere.
Alex Lozowski’s first cap is long overdue after plenty of time in England’s training camps, while no back-row in the country has deserved recognition more than Mark Wilson.
Jack Singleton, Nick Isiekwe and Jack Maunder represent the future, while Jones will be desperate to see if Denny Solomona’s try-scoring rate can be replicated at Test level.
Unsurprisingly the England coach has been eager to deflect attention away from his newer players and onto Argentina, and there was certainly plenty of truth in his pre-match comments.
“We are here to win this series 2-0 but we know Argentina will be extremely tough opposition. After a mixed year of results, there will be pressure on them to play well and win in front of a partisan crowd.”
2016: England won 27-14 at Twickenham
2013: England won 31-12 at Twickenham
2013: England won 51-26 in Buenos Aires
2013: England won 32-2 in Salta
2011: England won 13-9 in Dunedin (RWC)
2009: England won 16-9 iat Twickenham
2009: Argentina won 24-22 in Salta
2009: England won 37-15 in Manchester
Prediction: Very tight to call, with England’s uncapped contingent an unknown factor. This is close to a full-strength Argentina side however, and that commands respect, especially at home. Argentina by three.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 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 Ramiro Moyano
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 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 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona
Ireland start their three-game June international schedule with a match against the USA Eagles at the Red Bull Arena, Newark, on Saturday.
With several players involved with the British and Irish Lions, this month is the perfect opportunity for fringe players to lay down their own marker for a regular Test spot. Two games against Japan after this opener will be ideal to do just that following a long, hard season.
Joe Schmidt will be eager to build on their 13-9 victory against Six Nations champions England and despite missing those Lions such as their starting front-row, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne, he has an exciting backline and forward experience in the shape of Cian Healy, Devin Toner and Rhys Ruddock at his disposal to get the job done.
Three wins would give the squad significant momentum to take into their November Test against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, but June’s games won’t be easy, not least against Japan under Jamie Joseph. USA meanwhile will want to bid farewell to John Mitchell on a high note.
Mitchell’s announcement that he would be leaving in July to take up a role with the Bulls in South Africa is a blow to the Eagles and it appears he’s keen to focus their attention on their Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Canada later this month. Before that they take on Georgia.
For now though this is a chance to test themselves against a confident Ireland outfit who should have enough quality to come through this one with a victory. Anything else would be a major shock, particularly with Mitchell holding back several players, meaning this side could well chance their arm as they look to build on some positive results against Uruguay, Brazil, Canada and Chile in their 2017 games to date.
This though could well be a tough afternoon for the Eagles, with Tiernan O’Halloran certainly one player who will relish his chance in the spotlight, which is well earned after consistently strong performances for Connacht.
“This tour is a bit different. It’s a younger squad and guys are looking forward to stepping up,” he said as they look to hit the ground running in Newark.
2013: Ireland won 15-12 in Houston
2011: Ireland won 22-10 in New Plymouth
2009: Ireland won 27-10 in Santa Clara
2004: Ireland won 55-6 in Dublin
2000: Ireland won 83-3 in Manchester
1999: Ireland won 53-8 in Dublin
1996: Ireland won 25-18 in Atlanta
1994: Ireland won 26-15 in Dublin
Prediction: The visitors will come through this one in impressive style. Ireland by 25 points.
USA: 15 Ben Cima, 14 Mike Te’o, 13 Ryan Matyas, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Martin Iosefo, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger (c), 8 David Tameilau, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 John Quill, 5 Nic Civetta, 4 Nate Brakeley, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 Peter Malcolm, 1 Ben Tarr
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Joe Taufete’e, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Shaun Davies, 22 Will Magie, 23 Bryce Campbell
Ireland: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Simon Zebo