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BarbariansAlastair Kellock will lead the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

The former Scotland captain takes charge of a cosmopolitan squad, coached by Sir John Kirwan, for the Killik Cup match.

In the starting side are Australia wing Nick Cummins, who lines up against his former team-mates, with New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup match winner Colin Slade at flyhalf.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has warned his team they will need to be at their best if they are to keep their unbeaten record under his management in the Northern Hemisphere intact.

Meyer singled out the team’s first fixture against Ireland as a crucial one to kick off the team’s four week tour, and one which is the most tricky of all their fixtures.

While England has been singled out before as the fixture the Boks are likely to hold in the highest esteem, especially with next year’s Rugby World Cup being played there, the Boks know they cannot focus on the Twickenham showdown before getting past the tricky Irish, who have been a team that has plagued them at this time of year under previous coaches.

The Boks didn’t play Ireland when they went north last year, but the Irish will still be smarting from coming amazingly close to beating the All Blacks in Dublin last year, as the New Zealanders snatched the game away from them in the dying seconds to end their season unbeaten.

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IrelandAs the Springboks gather in Johannesburg before making their way to the Northern Hemisphere, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is well aware of the challenge he faces against the 2007 World Champions.

“South Africa do loom large,” he said.

“I don’t know if there’s been a better player in the world this year than Duane Vermeulen. I think he’s been unbelievable and we know so many of their other players.

“I was down at the Junior World Cup and watched flyhalf Handre Pollard, as a young fella playing in that final against England and he is an impressive young player, an impressive physical ball-carrier, he’s a big kid.

“So, there’s the new and old there and they have got a great mix and they’ll be very tough.”

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

New Wallaby defence coach Nathan Grey believes Australia can turn around their disastrous 2014 campaign if they get it right in the top six inches.

The Wallabies get their five-match year-end tour underway when they take on the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday.

While the emphasis is often on entertainment in BaaBaas games, it is when they take on Wales, France, Ireland and England in the following weeks that the heat will be turned up on a Wallaby team in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Grey said the challenge for the Wallabies was to have a winning mentality.

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EnglandEngland suffered another injury blow on Tuesday when head coach Stuart Lancaster confirmed centre Luther Burrell is unlikely to be fit for the upcoming test against New Zealand after sustaining a hand injury.

Northampton centre Burrell suffered an injury to his right hand during his side’s European Champions Cup victory over the Ospreys last weekend and will see a specialist ahead of New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham on November 8.

“I think it would be tight for New Zealand, if I’m being honest,” Lancaster told a news conference.

“He’s not been in camp this week at all. He’s seeing the specialist and it will probably unfold over the weekend.

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SpringboksSouth Africa has set themselves the ultimate benchmark, beating none other than the All Blacks during their last outing, and the pieces very much seem to be falling into place for Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks.

It has been heady stuff for the second ranked Test nation, playing impressive attack, while their relentless carpet bombing of the ruck contest has been driven by the Meyer tendency to pick giants in the back row – and this has been a key area of their ability to match New Zealand.

This is a template that the team will only look to develop, while their squad balance is remarkably similar to their great rivals, with Meyer introducing new talent to complement some of the most experienced players in his country’s history.

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New ZealandThe World Champions head to America and the United Kingdom in what is the ultimate live fire training run, for in less than 12 months the All Blacks will re-tread the same soil as they seek to defend the Webb Ellis Cup.

The paradox for New Zealand is that their first Test, against USA in Chicago next up, is followed by World Cup host’s England a week later.

This mirrors the fears that the All Blacks ‘soft pool’ in the 2015 tournament, an immense insult to Argentina, may be ill preparation for the knockout stages, something that caused some issues for the side in 2007.

The Rugby Championship winners play the United States, England, Scotland and Wales to round out their 2014 international schedule.

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AustraliaAustralia embarks on a difficult trip to Europe, playing the busiest schedule of any Southern Hemisphere power, clashing with Sir John Kirwan’s Barbarians to open November for the Wallabies before four straight Tests against the best the old continent has to offer.

Michael Cheika is the newest Test coach on the highest stage, and the successful coach, the only mentor in rugby history to record a Super Rugby / Heineken Cup double, will relish the immediate challenge which has seen him get ready for departure without even trying on his Wallabies gear.

From an on field perspective, to suggest the men in gold are in crisis is ludicrous, after they made the All Blacks look decisively mortal for long periods in Brisbane.

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ArgentinaDaniel Hourcade has worked wonders for Los Pumas so far, but the obvious progress seen throughout The Rugby Championship will need to continue if Argentina is to lay a marker in Europe.

After all, the Rugby World Cup will be played on the same soil next year, with the South Americans alongside the All Blacks in the same group.

The last time Los Pumas played the quadrennial tournament in the old continent, they defeated hosts France twice to finish third overall, an achievement that many believe was the genesis for their eventual inclusion into the South’s premier international competition.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr has realised his dream of becoming a Springbok after the No 8 was included in the year-end squad that will travel to the Northern Hemisphere.

His selection is warranted after being the stand-out player in the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign as well as being pivotal to the success of Western Province winning the Currie Cup.

An emotional Carr said he rushed to the television at 11.30 on Monday morning for the announcement of the squad and, when he saw he had cracked the nod in Heyneke Meyer’s year-end squad, he nearly jumped a hole in floor.

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Sir Ian McGeechan

Sir Ian McGeechan

The Springboks’ recent evolution from a kicking strategy to a more ball-in-hand approach has been noted in the Northern Hemisphere.

Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks are set to play four Tests there next month, starting with a clash against Ireland in Dublin on 8 November. After that, they will face England (London 15 November), Italy (Padova 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff 29 November) in consecutive weeks.

The Boks have shown more attacking intent in recent times after been criticised for playing a one-dimensional, kicking game.

The change in strategy has caught the eye for former British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan.

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New ZealandAll Blacks centre Conrad Smith expressed his excitement ahead of their historic match against the United States, which will be the first time New Zealand has played on American soil in 34 years.

Smith stated that the All Blacks are enjoying anonymity in the city of Chicago, Illinois as they were free to walk about largely unrecognised by the local population, as they explored the Windy City.

“We enjoyed the walk, the different sites and playing in a place we haven’t played at before. For old guys like myself, it’s a bit of a novelty but I think the guys will enjoy the week.

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England head coach Stuart Lancaster has added Dave Ewers, Henry Slade and Thomas Waldrom to the squad preparing for the 2014 Autumn Internationals.

The Exeter Chiefs trio come in as injury cover for James Haskell (Wasps), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) and Billy Vunipola (Saracens).

Burrell is remaining with Saints for specialist assessment on his injured right hand on Monday and Tuesday while Vunipola will undergo the return to play protocol in camp after suffering concussion in Saracens’ game at Munster on Friday.

Haskell is still getting over a viral infection and, with Will Fraser (Saracens) also suffering a concussion, Ewers comes in.

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter yesterday added two players to Scotland’s viagogo Autumn Test training squad in Newcastle.

Peter Horne, the five-times capped Glasgow Warriors centre, and uncapped Edinburgh scrum-half, Sam Hidalgo Clyne, have been brought in as precautionary injury cover for Alex Dunbar and Chris Cusiter respectively.

Dunbar reported ankle discomfort during the Warriors’ European Rugby Champions Cup win over Montpellier in France on Saturday, while Cusiter missed Sale Sharks’ corresponding Cup clash with a calf strain.

The pair will require further assessment from the medical team over the coming days to determine their time of return.

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The Springboks concluded a week of intense training at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Friday as their preparations for the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to Ireland, England, Italy and Wales stepped up a gear.

A total of 31 players took part in the training camp after prop Marcel van der Merwe withdrew due to injury.

Amongst the squad were four uncapped players in Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Boela Abrahams (scrumhalf) and Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), who were invited to get a taste of what Springbok rugby is all about after impressive performances for their provinces in the Absa Currie Cup.

“We had a good week and the players really worked very hard on the field and in the gym,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“The emphasis was on conditioning and we also paid a lot of attention to detail on and off the field. It was great to have time to work on these things before we embark on what will be a very tough tour.

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NamibiaThree new caps have been included in the Namibian national side to face Germany in Windhoek on 29 October.

The side will be captained by Western Province loose forward Rohan Kitshoff, who will make his 17th test appearance for his country.

Coach Danie Vermeulen on Thursday included Free State Cheetahs hooker and captain Torsten van Jaarsveld, Brive’s Tjuee Uanive and JC Greyling from Old Wesley RFC (Dublin, Ireland) in his squad of 23 for the once-off Test match.

Van Jaarsveld and Uanive are in the starting line-up, while Greyling is expected to earn his first cap coming off the bench.

The 27-year-old Van Jaarsveld was outstanding for the Free State Cheetahs this year and will start in his first Test for the Welwitchias.

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ItalyItaly captain Sergio Parisse believes winning the first of a three-match Test series, against Samoa next month, is “crucial” if the Azzurri are to build confidence ahead of the tougher challenge of Argentina and South Africa.

“It’s crucial for us to start this Test series off on a positive note with a win,” Parisse told reporters in Rome.

Italy head into the November Test series looking for massive improvements after finishing with the Six Nations wooden spoon and returning from a mid-year tour of the south Pacific winless.

Coach Jacques Brunel has welcomed several players back from injury, including Francesco Minto, Luca Morisi, Simone Favaro and scrumhalf Edoardo Gori.

New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona and Fijian Samuela Vunisa are also among three squad debutants alongside Simone Ragusi for November’s Tests.

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USAThirty-five players have been chosen for the United States national team’s tour next month – which starts with a 1 November Test against New Zealand in Chicago.

Coach Mike Tolkin will not have all of the players will available for every match.

The US Eagles management and European officials recently reached an agreement to allow leading American players based in Britain, France and Japan to play against the All Blacks at Soldier Field.

Among them are Cameron Dolan and Samu Manoa of Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons’ Eric Fry, Leicester Tigers’ Blaine Scully, as well as Hayden Smith and Chris Wyles of Saracens.

Thretton Palamon will be able to leave Saracens to play against Tonga in Gloucester, England, on 15 November, and Fiji in Vannes, France, on 22 November.

The Eagles also will play Romania in Bucharest on 8 November.

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EnglandSaracens wing Chris Ashton has been dropped from Stuart Lancaster’s England squad for the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals).

Ashton has been replaced in the squad by Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni, one of three uncapped players named in the 33-man squad on Wednesday.

England play against New Zealand ( 8November), South Africa (15 November), Samoa (22 November) and Australia (29 November).

Chris Robshaw will captain the side in the four-game series at Twickenham.

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ArgentinaArgentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has added 5 new players to the squad that will be touring the Northern Hemisphere in November.

Matías Moroni, Santiago Cordero, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Santiago Iglesias Valdez and Guido Petti have been brought in after not playing any part in the Rugby Championship while Mariano Galarza and Bruno Postiglioni have not been included due to injury.

With lock Mariano Galarza injured, Hourcade has brought 2 second row forwards into a 30-man squad, Juan Cruz Guillemain of Stade Francais and Guido Petti of local side SIC.

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South AfricaSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers spoke about Monday afternoon’s start to the national training camp in Stellenbosch as the beginning of the build-up to next year’s World Cup, and if that was so, where it all began should end up being like chalk and cheese to where it will surely end.

Twickenham next November is what the Boks are aiming for, and it will doubtless be chilly and probably a little gloomy, as it so often is in London at that time of year.

On Monday though a burning sun beat down as the Cape spring continues to play more like a summer, with sweltering conditions adding to the discomfort levels even after 5pm as the players ended their session with a grueling crawling drill directed by conditioning coach Basil Carzis.

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Schalk Brits

Schalk Brits

Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

The Springboks were dealt a double blow on Monday, when first Saracens hooker Schalk Brits and then Blue Bulls tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe was ruled out of the End Of Year Tour (November Internationals) with a knee injury.

Van der Merwe was supposed to join up with the Bok training camp this week but hurt himself in the dying minutes of the Vodacom Blue Bulls loss in the ABSA Currie Cup semifinal against DHL Western Province on Saturday, and will miss the next four to six weeks of rugby with a medial knee ligament injury.

“He fell awkwardly in the last few minutes of the game,” Blue Bulls doctor Org Strauss said, “He has a grade 2 medial ligament tear, luckily not the same knee that has given him problems in the past, I expect him to be out for anywhere between four and six weeks.”

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IrelandSouth African-born duo, Richardt Strauss and Robbie Diack, have been included in Ireland’s 37-man squad for the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals).

Ireland tackle South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 8 November, before facing Georgia on Sunday 16 November and Australia on Saturday 22 November.

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WalesWales Head Coach Warren Gatland has named a 34 man squad to play in the upcoming End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) which features just one uncapped player but no place for Adam Jones and James Hook.

Instead of British & Irish Lions prop Jones, 20-year-old Ospreys prop Nicky Smith has been called into the squad for the first time and features alongside 12 players who return to International duty after missing the summer tour to South Africa.

Gatland’s side take on Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weekends in November as the countdown begins to next year’s Rugby World Cup.

In the front-row, former Wales Under 20 prop Smith, who has started all seven of the Ospreys’ encounters this season, joins the experienced Gethin Jenkins and Paul James.

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

England centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) after suffering a groin injury during Leicester Tigers’ first match in the new European Champions Cup, the Premiership club said on Tuesday.

The Samoa-born player hobbled off the field after 15 minutes of the 25-18 win over Ulster on Saturday.

Tuilagi was making only his second start after three weeks out with a groin problem but Leicester said it was not a recurrence of the same injury.

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Barbarians RugbyThe Barbarians completed their squad with the addition of 11 more players including the South African duo of Juan de Jongh and Sarel Pretorius.

The Barbarians are set to take on the Wallabies at Twickenham on 1 November under the guidance of Blues coach John Kirwan.

Of the 11 new players added on Tuesday, the majority (5 of them) are from New Zealand with a further 3 Argentineans and a Scot to go along with the 2 South Africans.

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AustraliaNew Wallabies coach Michael Cheika included five debutants in his first squad unveiled on Wednesday for the End Of Year Tour in England, France, Ireland and Wales.

The 33-man Australia squad, led by 22-year-old Michael Hooper, includes three changes to the group that lost 29-28 to the All Blacks last Saturday.

The tour sees the return of injured duo Matt Toomua and Ben McCalman and the inclusion of uncapped Melbourne Rebels back-row forward Sean McMahon.

He is one of five uncapped players alongside Western Force pair Tetera Faulkner (prop) and Kyle Godwin (centre), and wingers Henry Speight (Brumbies) and Tom English (Rebels).

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AustraliaMichael CheikaThe Australian Rugby Union on Wednesday confirmed that Michael Cheika is the new Wallaby coach, ahead of a tough End Of Year European tour.

He has been appointed on a three-year contract, coming in the wake of the controversial departure of Ewen McKenzie as a result of the fall-out over the Kurtley Beale saga.

ARU Chief Executive Officer Bill Pulver said Michael Cheika was the outstanding candidate for the role.

“Central to our decision was selecting a world-class coach who can lead us to victory in next year’s World Cup and a person who represents the game’s core values,” Pulver said.

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Singapore Sports Hub - National Stadium

Singapore Sports Hub – National Stadium

The maligned pitch at Singapore’s expensive new National Stadium has forced the cancellation of next month’s Maori All Blacks clash with the invitational Asia-Pacific Barbarians, which could have ramifications for the team’s Super Rugby bid.

The Maori All Blacks were scheduled to play the Tana Umaga-coached side at the stadium, the centrepiece of a $1 billion Sports Hub, on November 15 after two matches in Japan.

The New Zealand Rugby Union, however, said on Tuesday the match had been cancelled due to the poor quality of the pitch that has drawn numerous complaints from sporting teams.

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South AfricaFollowing the elimination of the Cell C Sharks and the Vodacom Blue Bulls from the ABSA Currie Cup and the conclusion of the First Division, 8 more players have been invited to the Springboks’ training camp in Stellenbosch.

The Springbok selectors have invited Lwazi Mvovo, Cobus Reinach, Lourens Adriaanse (all Cell C Sharks), Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, Marcel van der Merwe, Bongi Mbonambi (all Vodacom Blue Bulls) and Boela Abrahams, who starred for the Down Touch Griffons in their ABSA Currie Cup First Division final victory on Friday, to join 20 nationally contracted players and 4 others as the team start their preparations for what will be an arduous Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

New Zealand welcomed back superstars Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams for next month’s Northern Hemisphere tour, but dropped pivot Colin Slade, despite his heroics against Australia at the weekend.

Flyhalf Carter, the world’s most prolific international points scorer, has not played since breaking his leg in the Super Rugby Final in August, while Williams returns to the All Blacks after two seasons playing Rugby League in Australia.

There is also a return for Aaron Cruden, who has finally been forgiven for his late-night indiscretion in the latter stages of the Rugby Championship.

Coach Steve Hansen also recalled flank Victor Vito at the expense of Steven Luatua, and included promising scrumhalf Augustine Pulu as the only uncapped player in the squad for the four-Test tour.

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USAThe United States has reached an agreement that will allow it to include leading players based in Britain, France and Japan in its team to play New Zealand in a rugby Test in Chicago on 1 November.

Under the agreement, US players in the English Premiership, second-tier IPA Championships, France’s Top 14, Japan’s Top League and Scotland’s Guinness PRO12 will be released for the match at Soldier Field.

The US Eagles’ Test against New Zealand falls outside the International Rugby Board’s window for international matches and clubs are not obliged to release players.

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Grant Gilchrist

Grant Gilchrist

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a 33 man squad for the End Of Year Internationals with lock Grant Gilchrist being named as captain.

The honour represents a return for the 24-year-old product of Alloa and Stirling County rugby clubs, who led Scotland twice during the June Internationals, including a 21-19 victory over Argentina in Cordoba.

He will return to the role against the same opposition when the Tests get underway at Murrayfield next month, when Scotland face the Pumas on Saturday 8 November (kick-off 17:30 BST), before facing Rugby Championship winners New Zealand, at the same venue (15 November), followed by Tonga at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (22 November).

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Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, offered to coach the Wallabies

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika confirmed on Monday he has been offered the Wallabies coaching job left vacant by the resignation of Ewen McKenzie, saying it was “humbling”.

A smiling Cheika, dressed in a Waratahs tracksuit top and black jeans, confirmed the offer when he spoke to the media out the front of Waratahs headquarters at Moore Park. “It’s a pretty humbling experience to be asked to be involved in something like that, but we’ll see what happens,” Cheika said.

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