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The Rugby Championship This weekend saw Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.

In johannesburg, South Africa it was heart-break for the Springboks again, 2nd week in a row, this time losing in the dying minutes against a better conditiond and fitter All Blacks side, by 20 / 27, with All Blacks capatin Richie McCaw doing the damage to snatch the lead from the South Africans with only 6 minutes to go in the match.

In Mendoza, Argentinia, the Wallabies led 8 / 6 at halftime before tuning in all the screws and beating Los Pumas comfortably by 34 / 9, also earning their bonus point for tries in the process.

As a result of the Round 2 results, the All Blacks and Wallabies are joint leaders of The Rugby Championship Log, with 2 wins apiece, whereas the Springboks and Los Pumas are still winless in the Competition, with the Springboks on a paltry 2 Log points and Los Pumas still not out of the starting gates, on 0 Log Points.

In 2015 there is of course only 3 Rounds in total, in the abbreviated version of the prime Southern Hemisphere international competition due to this year being a Rugby World Cup year. In this shortened version of the competition, where in stead of the normal double Round of matches by every side against the other sides, there is only a single Round of matches by every side against each of the other nations.

Round 3 is only in a fortnight, where the focus will be on the Bledisloe clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks for this year’s overall title.

The Springboks dominated most of the 1st half but at the break the scores were still tied on 10 / 10 and later on 17 / 17 before South Africa took a slender 20 / 17 lead and held that lead untill 6 minutes from time, whereafter the All Blacks showed their class and superior fitness and better bench selections to add 10 further points and running out 7-point winners.

All is not lost for the Springboks and one feels that they showed some quality rugby 2 weeks in a row, but they will surely now realize that their overall conditioning, fitness as well as the impact their bench is supposed to have in the vital Rugby World Cup during September and October still need a massive amount of work if they are to stand a proper chance of winning the world showpiece in 2015.

The All Blacks once again appear to be massive favourites to not only win theis year’s Rugby Championship but to also go on to clinch the Rugby World Cup title in October.

Argentina seem to be dogged by the same “Illness” that the Springboks are suffering from, as they also seem incapable of ending games strong enough and also tend to kick tactically poorly, which invariably results in scores against them in the latter stages of games when defences are no longer as tight as in the beginning of matches.

The Wallabies are building up nicely towards the Rugby World Cup, having first narrowly dispatched the Springboks week before last and now comforably beating Los Pumas on the weekend. They managed to score 2 quick-fire tries towards the end of the clash in Argentina, first by Tevita Kuridrani and then barely 3 minutes later one by Adam Ashley-Cooper (to earn them the bonus point for tries) to hammer the nails in properly against the Pumas.

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Brodie Retallick

Brodie Retallick

Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

New Zealand’s come-from-behind win over South Africa at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday has come at a price.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, in his 140th appearance for his country, produced the match-winning try with a pre-planned lineout move 6 minutes from time – as they came back from trailing by 7 points twice.

The All Black flank won a lineout close to the Springboks’ line and brushed off the challenge of scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar to score a try that will go a long way towards New Zealand claiming The Rugby Championship title.

However, injuries to key players will have cast a cloud over the team’s celebrations.

Coach Steve Hansen confirmed that centre Ma’a Nonu has damaged his rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“He will have scans done when he gets home (next week) to determine the extent of the injury,” Hansen told a post-match media briefing.

The other big concern is lock Brodie Retallick, who took to the field despite injuring his ankle during warm up.

Hansen said the lock “showed his character” to play through the match with the injury.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika believes New Zealand are way ahead of their closest rivals as they prepare for The Rugby Championship decider.

The Wallabies and All Blacks are locked on 9 points apiece in the Log Table after picking up 2 wins from their respective 2 games so far in the tournament.

And it seems the mind games have already begun ahead of the 8 August clash in Sydney, with Cheika praising how New Zealand are playing at the moment.

“This year it’s a little bit closer, but it’s very obvious that New Zealand are the best team in the world, and I mean by a long way at this stage,” the coach told Australian media after their impressive bonus-point win over Los Pumas.

“To beat South Africa like they did, I think they did it pretty easy in the end.

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Springboks vs All Blacks

We look at the key statistics from yesterday’s game and discuss some of the more telling moments of the match. Statistics are courtesy of Vodacom, opinion is this writer’s own. Where at all possible, blame will be placed squarely at the feet of non-WP players and / or the match officials, pitch conditions and Jan van Riebeeck.

They say you get lies, damn lies and statistics and when you look at the comparisons, it would appear to be a very close game, and indeed it was, with the All Blacks making decisive scoring breaks in injury time in the 1st half as well as the last 10 minutes of the game to sneak the victory. They clearly have higher fitness levels than the Springboks, both physically and mentally and managed to out last as well as out think the Springboks, the try scored by Richie McCaw being a prime example of excellent tactical superiority.

The statistic that is most interesting is the breakdown of meters run. When you analyze which positions made the most meters the following is apparent:

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South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks (10) 20 / 27 (10) All Blacks (Final Score)

The South African Springboks and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in Round 2 of The Rugby

Championship at Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time,

Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST). This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

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The Rugby ChampionshipIt is Round 2 of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).

There are 2 games on Saturday 25 July.

The Action of the Round is kicked off in South Africa, where the Springboks take on the old foe, the All Blacks in Johannesburg and concludes with the late night match between the Argentinian Pumas against the Australian Wallabies in Mendoza.

On Saturday at Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park) in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST) referee Jérôme Garcès is in charge in the Springboks vs All Blacks game.

On Saturday at Estadio Malvinas in Mendoza, at Sunday 00:40 SA Time (19:40 Arg Time, 22:40 GMT, Sunday 08:40 AEST, Sunday 10:40 NZ Time) referee Jaco Peyper of South Africa is in charge of the Pumas vs Wallabies game.

The game between the Springboks and the All Blacks should be a humdinger of note and the result could go either way. Last time these 2 sides met, also at the same venue, the Springboks won by a measly 2 points. Both sides have made some bold selections, with 2 debutants on the All Blacks side and on the Springbok side we see the return of Heinrich Brüssow, who makes his 1st Springbok appearance since November 2011. One cannot help but feel that the All Blacks have ironed out most if not almost all the chinks in their armour, whereas the Springboks still seem to be a work in progress.

The Pumas and the Wallabies have each made 7 changes to their starting line-ups and the question begs whether Los Pumas could repeat their win over the Wallabies of last year in Mendoza. The Wallabies came back very strongly against the Springboks last week, so I quite fancy them for a win against the Pumas… in Argentina.

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The Castle Rugby ChampionshipIn a shortened version of The Rugby Championship, the 2 losers of Round 1 are practically in last chance saloon while victories for Round 1’s winners would set up a winner-takes-all Bledisloe Cup clash in Round 3.

It makes for a must-see weekend of action.

 

South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks vs All Blacks:

It’s been 6 years since South Africa managed back-to-back wins over New Zealand and Saturday’s clash between the world’s top 2 teams represents an important chance to lay down a marker.

Last year’s last-minute victory for the Springboks in Johannesburg – only their 2nd win over the All Blacks since 2009 – ended a 3-year losing streak against their great rivals.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen has been girding his team for a rolling maul onslaught from South Africa in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby clash between the old rivals at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Although the Kiwis scored a good driving maul try of their own against Los Pumas in Christchurch last week, the Pumas momentarily got themselves back into the game with 2 of their own in the 2nd half. The look on All Black skipper Richie McCaw’s face told a story after the South Americans easily got over for their 2nd try. In short, he wasn’t happy.

But while that opened up a perception of possible All Black vulnerability to the driving maul, and let’s face it the New Zealanders are so good that opposing teams do need to make the most of even the slightest chink, Hansen made it clear to a press conference in the build-up to the game that he thought it was the laws that were vulnerable, not his team.

“We’re not too bad at the rolling maul ourselves these days,” he quipped. “There were 3 tries scored through driving mauls last week, but is that the game we want?”

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

The Springbok team to face New Zealand’s All Blacks for the 90th time shows 9 changes to the match-23 which did duty against Australia’s Wallabies, for the 2nd match in the condensed Castle Lager Rugby Championship, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Heinrich Brüssow will make his 1st start for the Springboks since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, while Vincent Koch has been included on the bench for what could be his Test debut for South Africa.

JP Pietersen, who was initially picked on the right wing, has since starined his hamstring in training and is replaced on right wing by Cornal Hendricks, with Lionel Mapoe replacing Cornal Hendricks’ place on the bench.

Of the 9 changes, 3 are to the pack, 1 to the backline and 5 are on the bench. The backline is unchanged. Schalk Burger will captain the team from No 8.

Francois Louw will start in the No 7 jersey for the injured Marcell Coetzee in a positional change, with Heinrich Brüssow assuming the openside role (No 6). The only other changes to the starting line-up is at lock, where Lood de Jager takes over from Victor Matfield and on right wing where Cornal Hendricks will do duty.

On the bench, Vincent Koch will be joined by Lionel Mapoe, Trevor Nyakane, Flip van der Merwe and Warren Whiteley, who could make his 1st Test appearance in South Africa, in front of his home crowd in Johannesburg.

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

The New Zealand All Blacks team to face the Springboks in The Rugby Championship on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park contains 2 Test debutants amongst other changes.

Lock James Broadhurst and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will line up to make their Test debuts for the All Blacks. Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at flyhalf and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.

In other changes in the starting 15, Dane Coles comes in at hooker, with Liam Messam at blindside flank. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting scrumhalf position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith is back.

As well, with a desire to continue to give Israel Dagg more game time, Ben Smith is named on the right wing.

On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards. TJ Perenara is reserve scrumhalf, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa the other backs on the pine.

Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting a total of exactly 500 Test caps, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Being taunted by 61 000 fans at Ellis Park (Emirates Airline Park) doesn’t cause Kieran Read much anxiety.

No 8 Read expects the Springboks supporters at Johannesburg to rip into the All Blacks on Saturday (Sunday morning NZ Time), but he gives the impression that they could turn the volume up 10-fold and he still wouldn’t be too fussed.

Read is so in-the-zone during matches that the clatter coming out of the mouths of inhospitable fans doesn’t register as being unfriendly, or otherwise.

“I know the crowd will certainly be baying for our blood,” Read said.

“Once you get on the field, it pretty much becomes WHITE NOISE to be honest, and in some ways they could be screaming for you.

“It’s hard to know exactly what is being said.”

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Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa

Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.

Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.

Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.

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Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

The All Blacks will be in the firing line when they take on the Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

South Africa suffered a narrow loss to Australia’s Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane at the weekend and New Zealand expect a backlash from their arch rivals at Emirates Airline Park.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has left Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of his 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg, saying it is important that he tests the mettle of other players in a high-profile Test in front of a sold-out crowd.

“We have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions and what better place to find out some questions about people – it is a heck of a pressure situation, isn’t it, against one of the best teams in the world,” he told Fairfax Media.

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Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams will not travel to South Africa for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship next weekend.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named a 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg for the Test against the Springboks on 25 July with Carter and Williams being rested.

“In deciding on the squad to travel to South Africa, the selectors based their selections on 3 criteria,” explained Hansen.

“Firstly, we have picked experienced players who are well aware of the challenge of playing South Africa at home.

“Secondly, we want to give some other players the opportunity to see how they cope under the extreme pressure of playing South Africa and thirdly, we took into consideration the fact that some players in the squad could do with having a break for various reasons, so they will be staying home to freshen up.”

Hansen feels Carter and Williams deserve a break.

“Normally if we had a squad of 31, both of them would be in it and would be coming,” he said.

“Sonny has got bit of a busy schedule so we will let him have some time at home and DC can have some time at home as well – along with the other guys.”

All players who are remaining in New Zealand will be given individual training programmes to work on and will reassemble with the rest of squad in August and be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup Tests.

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Kieran Read on the rampage

Kieran Read on the rampage

 

New Zealand kicked off their Rugby Championship campaign with a comfortable 39 / 18 win over Argentina in Christchurch on Friday.

Impressive at scrum time, the All Blacks showed their power in defence and attack in the 1st half, running in 2 tries through Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, allowing them to take an 18 / 6 halftime lead.

Despite 2 2nd-half tries from Agustin Creevy, it was the All Blacks who controlled things, running in 3 more scores through Charles Piutau, Kieran Read and debutant Codie Taylor.

The key to the game was the difference in defence, with New Zealand able to knock back runners all day long, while the Pumas were constantly on the back foot.

With quick ball, they created plenty of opportunities and were never really in danger, giving McCaw and Dan Carter a fitting farewell for their final international games in Christchurch.

Argentina had rested a number of experienced players, putting in faith in the likes of Guido Petti and Facundo Isa, who impressed last November, as well as promising winger Santiago Cordero.

In contrast New Zealand were playing the most experienced side in Test history, despite the absence of the likes of Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Sam Whitelock. There was an All Black debut for Waisake Naholo, the Highlanders winger who topped the try-scoring charts in Super Rugby this season.

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New ZealandArgentinaAll Blacks (18) 39 / 18 (6) Los Pumas (Final Score)

The New Zealand All Blacks and Argentinian Pumas did battle in The Rugby Championship at

AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 04:35 ARG Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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The Rugby ChampionshipIt is Round 1 of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).

There is 1 games on Friday 17 July and 1 game on Saturday 18 July.

The Action of the Round is kicked off in New Zealand, where the All Blacks take on Los Pumas of Argentinia in Christchurch and concludes with the match between the Australian Wallabies against the South African Springboks in Brisbane.

On Friday at AMI Stadium in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 04:35 ARG Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) referee Craig Joubert is in charge in the All Blacks vs Los Pumas game.

On Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, at 12:05 SA Time (20:05 AEST, 22:05 NZ Time, 07:05 ARG Time, 10:05 GMT) referee Nigel Owens of Wales is in charge of the Wallabies vs Springboks game.

The game between the All Blacks and Los Pumas should only produce 1 result and that is a comfortable win for the All Blacks. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has opted for a very experienced run-on side and replacement bench, whereas Argentinian coach Daniel Hourcade has included a number of inexperienced players in a very experimental Pumas side.

The game between the Wallabies and Springboks is extremely difficult to call but Rugby Championship and Tri-Nations history favours the Wallabies greatly at home in Australia against the Springboks. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has opted to haul back some big guns, 2 from overseas (Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell) and 2 recent Australian-based Wallabies who missed some of last year’s internationals (Will Genia & Quade Cooper) to bolster his match-day 23. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has changed just 1 player from the run-on side which demolished the World XV side last weekend, namely Schalk Burger in place of Warren Whiteley at No 8 and has made 4 further changes on the bench.

One would have to flip a coin or be very bold to nominate a winner here, but I suppose the home side goes in with a slight advantage.

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New ZealandArgentinaThe Rugby Championship’s most successful team kicks off against the least successful when New Zealand’s All Blacks host the Argentinian Pumas on Friday.

In fact the teams’ records in the competition almost exactly mirror each other, with the All Blacks having won 16, drawn 1 and lost 1, while Argentina have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 16.

Even their points for and against are remarkably similar, New Zealand having racked up 543 points, 4 fewer than Argentina have conceded, and the Pumas scoring 273, 1 fewer than the All Blacks have let in.

Those numbers show that the All Blacks’ dominance in the competition has been very similar to Argentina’s struggles and it’s hard to see that changing in Christchurch on Friday.

Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade is using the game as an opportunity to test out some young players, while Steve Hansen is more focused on a few old heads proving their form.

That’s not to say the All Black side is completely devoid of new faces, Waisake Naholo will start for the 1st time, while Codie Taylor should also make his debut off the bench.

However it is the form of the likes of Israel Dagg, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, which will be of serious interest.

The latter pair should be inked in for the Rugby World Cup squad, despite disappointing seasons for the Blues, but for all Hansen’s protestations, Dagg is surely fighting for a place on the plane to England given the depth of options in the back 3.

In comparison, Hourcade has chosen to rest a number of 1st team regulars, giving Rugby Championship debuts to Facundo Isa, Guido Petti and Santiago Cordero.

The latter has been highly-rated for a while, but has not had many opportunities against top tier opposition. With Manuel Montero ruled out of the Rugby World Cup through injury, this could be Cordero’s chance to shine.

Having said that, Argentina have made it very clear they are solely focused on the World Cup, and it’s hard to imagine them picking up a 1st-ever win over New Zealand.

They did however secure their first Rugby Championship win in their final game of last year’s edition, but the Wallabies at home and the All Blacks away are very different challenges.

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ArgentinaArgentina head coach, Daniel Hourcade, has confirmed the Pumas team that will tackle New Zealand in Friday’s opener of The Rugby Championship in Christchurch.

The side features 12 changes from the last match against the French Barbarians with just the trio of Guido Pagadizabal Petti, Facundo Isa and Jerónimo De la Fuente retaining their places from the 21 / 9 victory.

Manuel Carizza has been re-called for his 1st match for Argentina since the June 2014 Test against Scotland while Santiago Cordero will line-up for his 1st Rugby Championship match, along with Isa and Petti.

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New ZealandThe All Blacks team to play the Argentinian Pumas in The Rugby Championship-opening match has been named, with exciting winger Waisake Naholo to make his Test debut.

Another new All Black, hooker Codie Taylor, is named on the reserves bench for the clash at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

24-Year-old Naholo comes in for George Moala in 1 of 6 changes from the match-day 23 that played Samoa last week.

In the forwards, lock Brodie Retallick is back in the starting 15, replacing Samuel Whitelock, with Jeremy Thrush coming in as lock reserve; TJ Perenara is at scrumhalf, with Andy Ellis, who played his 250th 1st-class match last week, moving to the bench; while Ma’a Nonu has been named at centre in his 95th Test, and Ryan Crotty moving to the bench. Taylor replaces Hikawera Elliot as reserve hooker and the only other change in the reserves sees loose forward Liam Messam come in for Matt Todd.

It’s another hugely experienced All Blacks team for the Rugby Championship opener, with prop Tony Woodcock to make his 100th Test start in his outstanding career. The match-day 23 boasts 1068 caps worth of experience and an average age of 28 years.

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British & Irish LionsThe New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) have revealed a packed 10-match programme for the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour, including 3 Tests between the Lions and All Blacks.

In addition to the internationals, the Lions will play all 5 of New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and a composite Provincial XV.

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said the tour was set to generate more demand than the Lions’ last trip in 2005, when 20 000 travelling fans created a boisterous atmosphere and injected an estimated NZ$ 135 million (US$ 90 million) into the economy.

“The series in New Zealand will be a huge occasion, featuring the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and providing almost 6 weeks of incredible rugby,” he said.

The Lions tour every 4 years, with the event rotated between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where last time out they overcame the Wallabies 2 / 1 in 2013.

They lost 0 / 3 when last in New Zealand in 2005, with the defining moment a spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll early in the 1st Test that forced the Irishman out of the tour.

Overall, New Zealand have won 27 Tests and the Lions 6 since the tours began in 1888, with the visitors achieving their only series win in 1971.

NZRU also revealed it will host Wales in June next year for a 3-Test series against the All Blacks.

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New ZealandGeorge Moala is set to make his All Black debut when New Zealand meet Samoa in a historic 1-off Test in Apia on Wednesday.

Moala is the only uncapped player in the starting 15.

3 More uncapped players have been named on the replacement bench – with prop Nepo Laulala, scrumhalf Brad Weber and midfielder Charlie Ngatai all in line for their 1st test appearances.

The starting 15 features a wealth of experience in the forward pack, with 648 Test caps up front – courtesy of a front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks, locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano and the familiar loose forward trio of Jerome Kaino, captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.

There are a further 224 Test caps in the starting backline, with scrumhalf Andy Ellis returning to the All Blacks for the 1st time since 2011, Daniel Carter is at flyhalf, with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the midfield.

Moala is on the right wing, Charles Piutau is on the left and Israel Dagg is at fullback.

On the bench, hooker Hika Elliot continues his remarkable comeback after last playing for the All Blacks in 2012 and undergoing neck surgery in 2013.

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New ZealandNew Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen brought in some reinforcements as his team gears up for a brutal Test against Samoa in Apia next week Wednesday.

With a number of key All Blacks involved in the Super Rugby Final between the Hurricanes and Highlanders, Hansen wanted to add some depth to the squad training in Auckland this week.

17 Members of Hansen’s 41-player squad were ruled out because of their involvement in Saturday’s Super Rugby decider.

3 More players – uncapped Chiefs midfield backs Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu, as well as Crusaders utility Tom Taylor – have been brought into the New Zealand camp in Auckland.

With injury issues surrounding some others, Hansen initially announced 2 stand-by players – scrumhalf Andy Ellis and uncapped prop Nepo Laulala.

He had already boosted numbers last week when 3 uncapped players joined a training camp in Auckland – midfield back George Moala, scrumhalf Brad Weber and prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

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New Zealand Rugby have paid homage to the most iconic of All Blacks teams, The Originals, in the design of their World Cup jersey which includes the latest in sporting apparel technology.

Developed with the input of All Blacks management and senior players, the jersey features a special design across the shoulders and chest – inspired by the famous leather yoke which adorned The Originals jersey.

The subtle design change pays respect to the legendary Originals team which toured the United Kingdom, France and the USA in 1905 – 1906 – losing just 1 match on their famous 35-match tour.

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SamoaSamoa have named a 27-man squad heavy with overseas-based players for next week’s historic 1-off Test against the All Blacks from New Zealand.

The 8 July fixture will be the 1st time the All Blacks will play a Test match in the Pacific Islands, after previous trips to play Fiji were not given that status.

Prime minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegao, who is also chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, announced the squad on Tuesday in the Samoan capital Apia, where the match will be played,.

Space in the All Blacks’ pre-World Cup schedule was found for the match after he and the Prime Minister of New Zealand joined calls for the game to be set up. It is expected to be the biggest sporting event in Samoa’s history.

The starting line-up has yet to be confirmed but London Irish flanker Ofisa Treviranus was named earlier this week as captain.

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Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar in 1995 with the World Cup trophy.

Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar in 1995 with the World Cup trophy.

 

South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins on Wednesday congratulated and thanked the Springbok squad involved in the 1995 Rugby World Cup as they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their epic World Cup final win in Johannesburg.

The Springboks won their 1st Rugby World Cup on 24 June 1995, beating New Zealand, 15 / 12, in a memorable final played at Ellis Park. The result unleashed a tide of goodwill and nation-building across South Africa, which a year earlier had celebrated democracy after decades of racial segregation.

“We proudly celebrate this day as a rugby family, because this team helped Nelson Mandela unite a country,” said Mr Hoskins. “It was a moment that astonished a nation and provided one of the foundation stones for the country we were to become. It was arguably the greatest day in our rugby history.

“Mr Mandela together with that Springbok team pointed the way to a new future for our people and 20 years later that day still has a massive resonance.

“We continue to salute the 1995’ers for what they achieved as a rugby team and what they meant to a nation.”

Mr Hoskins said it was also a day to remember and honour the legacy of the fallen heroes from that day, President Mandela, the Springbok coach Kitch Christie and flanker Ruben Kruger.

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R.I.P Norman Berryman

R.I.P. Norman Berryman

New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday that cult hero “Stormin” Norman Berryman has died at the age of 42.

Reports said Berryman suffered a heart attack at his home near Perth, Australia, where he settled after his rugby career.

Berryman, a powerful winger, was a fan favourite during a long career in Super Rugby but played just 1 Test for the All Blacks, a 23 / 24 loss to South Africa in 1998.

He was widely considered to be unlucky to miss out on more Test caps but was competing for spots against the likes of Jonah Lomu and Inga Tuigamala.

Berryman also did himself no favours with his outspoken criticism of then All Blacks coach John Hart, who he said “has got a vibe about him that projects negativity”.

He famously walked out of an All Blacks training camp in Auckland and hitch-hiked home to Whangarei after a disagreement with Hart.

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All BlacksThe All Blacks selectors gave their 1st hint of World Cup thinking, naming 5 new faces in an enlarged 41-man squad.

Coach Steve Hansen has named 33 new All Blacks since they won the last World Cup in 2011 with the latest additions being Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor, Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst and fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and wing Waisake Naholo.

Naholo is the leading try-scorer in Super Rugby this year, touching down twice in the Highlanders 24 / 14 play-off victory over the Chiefs on Saturday to take his total for the year to 11.

Milner-Skudder is a cousin of Buff Milner and a nephew of George Skudder, both former All Blacks.

There is also a recall for 3-Test hooker Hika Elliot who has not been required for international duty since June 2012.

A final group of 31 to defend their world crown will be named at the end of August following The Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa, Australia and Argentina as well as a 1-off Test with Samoa and an extra clash with Australia.

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Jerry Collins and his partner Alana tragically died in a car crash this morning... R.I.P.

Jerry Collins and his partner Alana tragically died in a car crash this morning… R.I.P.

Hurricanes and All Blacks legend Jerry Collins and his partner Alana Madill have tragically passed away following a car accident in France on Friday morning.

The duo were Beziers when their car was apparently struck by a bus.

The couple sadly passed away while their three-month-old daughter was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Collins joined Wellington in 1999, earning 85 Super Rugby caps and first receiving a call-up to the All Blacks in 2001. He went on to play 48 Tests before retiring after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

He subsequently joined French club Toulon and Ospreys in Wales before a stint in Japan.

He was 34 years of age.

Tributes have started flowing in from around the rugby world and a moment’s silence will be observed before kick-off between the Hurricanes and Highlanders in Napier on Friday evening.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Black legend Dan Carter insists he’s not assured of a spot in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad.

Carter, 33, is regaining his form in this year’s Super Rugby competition, despite his Crusaders team not being the most consistent.

However, in their most recent match the Crusaders smashed the Reds 58 / 17 in Christchurch and Carter showed signs that he is returning to his past form.

“It feels like my form has been getting better as the season has gone on and really enjoying getting a bit of game time,” Carter said.

“I’ve almost played twice as many games as I played last year so that’s encouraging as long as my form is heading in the right direction then I’m happy with that.”

Carter said there are no guarantees that he’ll make the World Cup touring party.

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph believes Lima Sopoaga must continue his rich vein of Super Rugby form backed up with a strong finish to the season to force himself into contention for the All Blacks.

One can argue that Sopoaga has been the most consistent New Zealand flyhalf with his improved confidence and game management.

Colin Slade has been in silky form for the Crusaders, but he crossing hemispheres after the World Cup and so is Dan Carter.

Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden will almost certainly miss the World Cup with a serious knee injury and Hurricane Beauden Barrett will be out for 4 weeks.

Barrett’s scans revealed a grade 2 tear of his medial collateral ligament (MCL) which he suffered during the Hurricanes’ match against the Crusaders last Saturday.

The uncapped Sopoaga, if he maintains his form, must be next in line.

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Steve Tew

Steve Tew

The New Zealand Rugby Union said Thursday they had no plans to emulate Australia and relax eligibility rules so overseas-based players can represent the All Blacks.

The Australian Rugby Union announced the move on Wednesday in response to a host of top players taking up lucrative club contracts after this year’s September and October World Cup in England.

Defending World Cup champions New Zealand face a similar post-tournament exodus, with at least 10 All Blacks heading offshore – including Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Colin Slade.

But NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said his organisation still believed that the only players allowed to pull on the hallowed All Black jersey should be based in New Zealand.

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