End Of Year Tours

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Nick Cummins

Baabaa boy … Nick Cummins will play against the Wallabies.

The Wallabies are set to face one of their own at Twickenham after Nick Cummins agreed to wear the black and white of the Barbarians against Australia in November.

Little more than two months after he left Australia for Japan’s Top League, Cummins has agreed to play for the invitational side in the November 1 fixture that kicks off the Wallabies five-week spring tour of Europe, his manager said.

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England's rugby jersey

NEW DESIGN: England’s rugby jersey features a pattern of crosses resembling the Victoria Cross.

There’s no sign of a change in design, but the Rugby Football Union has issued an apology over the controversial new jersey England will debut against the All Blacks in London in November.

The jersey, manufactured by Canterbury, has drawn criticism for its use of rubber grips across the chest area in the shape of the hallowed Victoria Cross. They were intended to help deaden the impact of the ball and help with grip.

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Sonny Bill Williams

The mercurial Sonny Bill Williams is close to returning to Rugby Union

Dual international Sonny Bill Williams will be considered for the New Zealand’s end of year tour if he is fit and in top form.

That is the word from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who said time was a factor less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup. Hansen feels Williams’ return to the All Blacks will depend on his condition when he returns from the Sydney Roosters’ NRL campaign and whether he manages to play some part for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup.

Hansen admitted that he hoped Williams’ return to Test rugby is sooner rather than later.

“There is no doubt he’s an exceptional rugby player and if he’s available then we’d be foolish not to look at him, but we have to take into account he’s come off a big season,” Hansen told Fairfax Media.

“We have to take a whole lot of things into consideration before we make a decision. What’s right for Sonny? What’s right for the team?”

“Next year’s a bit different because we don’t have the June series and if we can’t use him going into the World Cup then if we can have that opportunity to spend time with him then that would be good.”

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All BlacksUSAThe New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed on Tuesday the All Blacks will travel to take on the USA in Chicago on 1 November.

The world’s best will take on their American counterparts at the 61,000-seater Solider Field stadium, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Though rumours and speculation regarding this fixture have bubbled away for nearly six months, it was only on Tuesday that the match was publicly announced as the Kiwis’ newest overseas initiative, with the purposes of drawing on the developing market – boasting huge potential – in the USA, generating a ballpark figure of at least $1 million NZ dollars for the NZRU, and offering the Test side important preparation for the subsequent fixtures in Europe.

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South AfricaHarold VersterFree State Rugby Union CEO Harold Verster says the union will next host a Test match in the 2016 season.

Verster wrote a column on the Volksblad website where he explained to fans the situation regarding the union’s hosting of Test matches.

Verster said the union gave up its right to host last year’s Rugby Championship Test between South Africa and Argentina.

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South AfricaThe Springboks will face 2013 Six Nations champions Wales in two Tests in Durban and Nelspruit during the Castle Lager Incoming Series in June, followed by a once-off international against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

The fixtures were confirmed by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Wednesday.

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WalesAustraliaNew ZealandSouth AfricaWales will have an opportunity to break their SANZAR bogey when they face the world’s top three sides in next year’s November internationals.

The International Rugby Board’s (IRB) top three ranked sides, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia will visit the Millennium Stadium along with Pacific Island nation Fiji.

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End Of Year Tours - 2013Round 5 of the End Of Year Tours is the last Round of the tour and also signals the end of the Southern Hemisphere season as well as the welcome rest period for Southern Hemisphere teams.

This weekend does not see quite as much rugby, compared to to the previous 4 Rounds as it only has 2 matches, but it is going to be two great clashes. Any weekend with rugby is all in all still a good weekend.

Here are some head to head statistics and predictions.

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Barbarians RugbyThere are 6 Springboks in the starting 15 and a further 2 on the bench for the Barbarians’ clash with Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday. It would have been 7 Springbok starters as the initial side was named including Flip van der Merwe as No 4 lock, but he has been withdrawn from the squad after the Blue Bulls said NO under such short notice. Flip is directly replaced by Mick O’Driscoll of Ireland.

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WalesWinger Alex Cuthbert has made a surprise return to the Wales team to play Australia on Saturday after recovering ahead of time from an ankle injury that initially seemed to rule him out of the entire autumn series.

Cuthbert will reunited with his British and Irish Lions back three partners George North and Leigh Halfpenny as Wales hope the Lions influence can end their own dismal run against the Wallabies.

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TVThe season may have ended for International sides like the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks, but we still officially have one Test weekend left on the End Of Year Tours in 2013, and it is this weekend!

The Barbarians take on Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon at 16:30 SA Time (14:30 GMT), with a number of prominent Springboks and All Blacks in the Barbarians side and Wales host the Wallabies from Australia at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff at 19:00 SA Time (17:00 GMT).

But that’s not all folks, we have some quality Sevens Rugby on Friday and Saturday (HSBC Sevens World Series, Dubai Tournament) and we also have the Varsity Sevens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday… all broadcast live. In addition we have Aviva Pemiership Round 9 rugby betwwen Gloucester vs Leicester Tigers and French Top 14 Round 13 rugby between Perpignon vs Clermont Auvergne on Friday night and an Aviva Premiershpi Round 9 rugby match between Newcastle Falcons vs Harlequins on Sunday

Here are the broadcast times for Friday, Saturday and Sunday:

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New ZealandIrelandFranceWalesEnglandAustraliaSouth AfricaNew Zealand media have dubbed the 2013 All Blacks “The Unbeatables” after their perfect season, but acknowledged their rivals are closing the gap ahead of the next World Cup.

The tone was more relieved than triumphant after the New Zealanders snatched a 24-22 result over a desperately unlucky Ireland to record 14 wins from 14 and become the first international side in the professional era to win every single Test in a calendar year.

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South AfricaHeyneke MeyerThe Springboks have made South Africans proud in 2013, with 10 wins from 12 Tests, the only blight on their record 2 losses against the world’s No 1 side, the All Blacks from New Zealand. South Africa beat France on the weekend by 19 / 10 at Stade de France in Paris, capping off an undefeated tour.

But let’s put those 2 losses into some perspective… in New Zealand the Springboks were on the wrong side of poor reffereeing by Romain Poite, the French referee in charge of that match, resulting in the fact that the Springboks had to play 48 minutes without Bismarck du Plessis. In those circumstances, the Springboks were still highly competative and probably the most pleasing part was that the Springbok forwards dominated large parts of the game. The Springboks lost that one though, as the slow All Black poison came through for the home side in the end.

In South Africa it was do or die for the Springboks… go out and score 4 tries against the All Blacks and win by more than 7 was the challenge in The Rugby Championship, a tall order indeed! The Springboks managed their 4 tries but once again the slow poison of New Zealand worked in their fafour and they came back from behind in the last quarter to score their fourth and ultimately their fifth try, to also beat the Springboks.

So, well done to the All Blacks… and while we’re at it, well done on an All Black season of 14 wins from 14 Tests, what an enviable record, New Zealand certainly deserve the No 1 world crown at this juncture in time!

The positive side of the coin however for the Springboks is that South Africans, and the world in general, now realistically give the Springboks a chance against the All Blacks in every Test match, even away from home. Having looked at results on the End Of Year Tours by both the Springboks and All Blacks, it can also be argued that the Springboks had a slightly better tour north compared to the All Blacks, specially with the All Blacks only managing a last gasp win against Ireland with a try long after the hooter had sounded for full time on Sunday night. The Springboks also only conceded 1 solitary and fortunate try on the whole of the tour up north, whilst the All Blacks conceded far more.

Looking to the future of Springbok rugby, Heyneke Meyer said after the weekend’s Test against France that Jean de villiers will stay Springbok captain in 2014 and the total message out of the Springbok camp is that the Springboks will now aspire to the No 1 ranking spot in world rugby, from 2014 and thereafter.

That certainly implies that Heyneke Meyer wants to and needs to beat the All Blacks… but it does not stop there, seeing as the Springboks want to go to No 1, notwithstanding  how or what the All Blacks do.

The Springboks certainly have improved their chances in 2013 to aspire to a World Cup win in 2015, in fact they are fast becomming joint favourites with the All Blacks in the race to this title.

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New ZealandAll Blacks coach Steve Hansen was a proud man after a dramatic comeback against Ireland capped an unbeaten year for his side.

The world champions were forced to come from behind to become the first team to win every match in a calendar year in the professional era.

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IrelandIreland coach Joe Schmidt said it was devastating that his side had come within seconds of an historic first ever win over world champions New Zealand only to lose 24-22 with the final kick in one of the sport’s most memorable ever Test matches.

The Irish had possession deep in the All Black half with less than a minute to go, but they conceded a penalty and the Kiwis produced a stunning passage of play to move the ball downfield for Ryan Crotty to score a try – which Aaron Cruden converted at the second opportunity.

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End Of Year Tours - 2013This weekend sees Round 4 of the 2013 End Of Year Tours. It is the last weekend on tour for the Springboks from South Africa, with their last game on tour probably the most difficult one. A a win over France will see the Springboks ending with what can be called a great season.

All in all a good weekend of rugby lies ahead and it will be enjoyed the world over, like always. Here are the head to head stats to help you with your SuperBru picks. Good luck to all sides.

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ItalyArgentinaItalian coach Jacques Brunel has made three changes to his starting team for their third and final year-end Test, against Argentina in Rome on Saturday.  There is also a positional switch in the backline.

In the Argentina camp, player release has forced Argentina into 5 changes for their closing tour match against Italy on Saturday from the team beaten 40-6 by Wales last weekend.

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TVFor the Springboks this is the last weekend of competative rugby in 2013, bar of course the 9 Springboks who have been chosen to represent the Barbarians next weekend.

So, apart from some HSBC Sevens action and a weekend without the Springboks next weekend, the Southern Hemisphere season is fast approaching it’s end.

Just imagine all the Northern Hemisphere rugby and all the cricket we’ll have to get by on in December and Juanuary!

So, this weekend I’m stuck in front of the TVand watching every game I possibly can.

5 Tests will be broadcast live on TV in South Africa this weekend, 1 on Friday, 3 on Saturday and the last 1 on Sunday.

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