The England tour of South Africa has already been given a considerable amount of ‘air time’ on this site, and no doubt will continue to feature heavily in the coverage over the coming weeks. This article provides some information on the tours down south of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Ireland are going to be on a tough three test match tour of New Zealand while Wales will be touring Australia and are scheduled to play three tests and one midweek match.
Scotland, on the other hand, will be spending the next three weeks hopping from one country to the next with tests against Australia, Fiji and Samoa.
Scotland, unlike Ireland and Wales whose test matches will all be played on Saturdays, will play two tests on Saturdays and for some strange reason one test on Tuesday. This Tuesday test will be the first one against Australia.
Ireland rugby looks to be in a fairly good place at the moment, especially when considering they provided both teams for the Heineken Cup final and two out of the four teams for the RaboDirect Pro12 semi finals.
On the international front they will be looking to try and build on their mid table Six Nations finish. This was perhaps disappointing for them but given that the likes of European player of the year Rob Kearney seems to have regained his form and has arguably been playing far better rugby recently than he did during the Six Nations, things may indeed be looking good for Ireland.
Ireland have never beaten The All Blacks. The teams have played each other twenty four times with the best result for Ireland thus far being a solitary draw.
Ireland’s last three test results read as follows; drawn against France, beaten Scotland and lost to England.
In the last few days it has been announced that captain Paul O’ Connell has been withdrawn from the squad due to injury. When he last had to sit out, during the Six Nations one wondered how they would fare but his replacement Donncha Ryan stepped up and played so well that O’ Connell’s presence didn’t seem to have been missed.
However, a tour away from home down under is a different story and Paul O’Connell’s absence may turn out to be quite a blow for them. To make things harder still tough flanker Stephen Ferris and flyer Tommy Bowe will also miss the tour due to injury while there are also doubts regarding the fitness of prop Mike Ross who has suffered a hamstring strain.
Squad as follows:
Backs- Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *,
Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Brian O’Driscoll CAPTAIN (UCD/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
Forwards – Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster) *, Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster), Ronan Loughney (Galwegians/Connacht) *, Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster) *, Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht) *
* uncapped players
|Saturday 9th June||New Zealand||Eden Park|
|Saturday 16th June||New Zealand||Rugby League Park|
|Saturday 23rd June||New Zealand||Waikato Stadium|
The wooden spoon is not really a prize Scotland would have been proud of winning this past Six nations. There were some good signs from Scotland at times, especially during the first game against England which Scotland should have won. Ultimately though, the tournament ended in a defeat against Italy, the fifth in a row.
The start to the tour then could not be much harder with the first test match to be played against Australia on Tuesday.
The last time Scotland played Australia they won by a single point, back in 2009 at Murrayfield and they would love to repeat that feat away from home this time.
Scotland beat Samoa back in November 2010 by three points. That was a game played at Pittodrie football ground in Aberdeen. Ruaridh Jackson, who was on a replacement for Dan Parks, stepped up at the end of the game and kicked the match winning penalty.
Scotland’s last three test results read as follows; lost to Italy, France and Ireland.
There are numerous players who have been called up for the first time for Scotland. The most high profile of these is Dutchman, winger, Tim Visser. Visser qualifies to play for Scotland on residency grounds and is a tremendous player, keep an eye out for this man in future. However, Visser will only be able to represent Scotland from the 12th of June so will miss out on the first test against Australia.
Scotland will be missing eighthman David Denton and winger Lee Jones due to injury. These are both young players who played in their first Six Nations this year and fared quite well, particularly strong ex Zimbabwean Denton.
Stalwart loose forward Kelly Brown, who missed the Six Nations, is also not available due to injury and is a player who will most definetly be missed as he could have arguably been the best candidate to take on the captaincy role.
Prop Allan Jacobsen has had a very high work load this year and has been rested for this tour. Players who may feel unlucky to have missed out on selection are Glasgow players, flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson and tight head prop Moray Low. Jackson has suffered from injuries this year and has slipped down the pecking order at club level, and seemingly now at international level as well, to young Duncan Weir.
Fellow Glasgow player, centre, Graeme Morrison was also not selected. It remains to be seen whether this is just to give some younger players experience of touring with Scotland or this will be a long term omission as part of head coach Andy Robinson’s plan to get the team to play a more expansive game.
Morrison is one of those players whose presence I feel is noticed more when he is not in the team if that makes sense. To me, although Morrison may be somewhat predictable crashing the ball up, he is strong on his feet and brings some solidity to Scotland’s midfield. This may be quite a crucial midfield requirement in defence on this tour particularly playing alongside diminutive flyhalf Greig Laidlaw.
Two players were called up as welcome late additions to the squad. This is encouraging as I had expressed my concern when the initial squad was announced that it didn’t have enough players in it for what will be a tough tour.
Stuart Mc Inally is a twenty one year old loose forward who plays for Glasgow and has been drafted in as cover for John Barclay who had some injury concerns. Fellow Glasgow player, twenty two year old Alex Dunbar, is the other late addition to the squad.
Dunbar was apparently already in Australia visiting family at the time of his call up. He is a player to watch for the future and could make a big name for himself yet for Scotland if given sufficient chance in the same way fellow Glasgow youngster fullback Stuart Hogg has.
Squad as follows:
Backs – Joe Ansbro (London Irish), Mike Blair, Tom Brown (both Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)*, Max Evans (Castres), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby) and Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)
Forwards – John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross, Ross Ford CAPTAIN (both Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant*, Richie Gray, Dougie Hall, Robert Harley*, Alastair Kellock (all Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Stuart McInally (Glasgow Warriors)*, Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby), Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors)*, Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) and Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors).
* uncapped players
|Tuesday 5th June||Australia||Hunter Stadium, Newcastle|
|Saturday 16th June||Fiji||Churchill Park|
|Saturday 23rd June||Samoa||Apia Park|
Current Six Nations champions and fresh from victory against the Barbarians, this Welsh team should be rather confident as they embark on their tour down under.
This series may put an interesting perspective on world rugby as it sees arguably the Northern Hemisphere’s best team against the second or third best team in the Southern Hemisphere.
We may also get a glimpse of how the Wales team may fare in next year’s six nations as they will be without talisman head coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland is currently recovering from a foot operation and Rob Howley is stepping up as caretaker head coach in his abscence. His involvement as coach for next year’s British and Irish Lions tour to Australia should see Gatland get a sabbatical from coaching Wales during the Six Nations.
Wales’s last three test results read as follows; beat France, Italy and England.
Wales have been able to pick a strong squad with the one notable abscence due to injury being that of tough centre Jamie Roberts.
A squad of thirty nine was originally announced and now has been reduced to thirty four player. The one omission that is the biggest talking point is that of Ospreys star flyhalf Dan Biggar. Many folk in Wales don’t seem happy about this, an understandably so.
Biggar played a big role in the Ospreys winning their RaboDirect Pro12 semi final match against Munster and then kicked the conversion form near the touchline to take his team to a one point win in the final against Leinster. Biggar’s omission may partly be mitigated by the fact that he left the field in the match against the Barbarians on Saturday with a shoulder injury.
The rest of the players from the original thirty nine man squad who miss out on the tour are Martyn Williams, Adam Warren, Will Harries and Ryan Bevington. However, Martyn Williams announced his retirement following his match for the Barbarians.
Locks Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones will be missing from the Welsh team for the first test against Australia. Evans will be getting married and Jones attending his sister’s wedding.
Squad as follows:
Backs – Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys), Aled Brew (Biarritz), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues)*, Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets)*
Forwards – Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets)*, Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Sam Warburton CAPTAIN (Cardiff Blues)
* uncapped players
|Saturday 9th June||Australia||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane|
|Tuesday 12th June||ACT Brumbies||Bruce Stadium|
|Saturday 16th June||Australia||Telstra Dome/Etihad Stadium, Melbourne|
|Saturday||Australia||Aussie Stadium, Sydney|