It’s a bumper weekend of International Rugby and we picked out six players to watch as the Boks host Eddie Jones’ England, France face the might of the All Blacks at Eden Park, Ireland try to break their drought in Australia and Argentina take on a new-look Wales.
There are some world class stars trying to re-assert their authority at Test level, brand new faces making just making their mark and pace-men hoping to carry their Super Rugby for into the international arena.
Here are six players to watch:
Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Australia v Ireland)
He’s yet to play a test but the 22-year-old Reds rake has already endeared himself to Australian rugby fans with his down-to-earth attitude and abundant personality. Thrust in to the starting No2 spot due to the retirement of Stephen Moore, the non-selection of Tatafu Polota-Nau and the injury to Jordan Uelese the former garbage man, landscaper and theology student has his big chance this Saturday.
Joey Carbery (Ireland v Australia)
With Ireland coach Joe Schmidt deciding to rest first choice fly half Johnny Sexton for the first Test a lot of pressure falls on the shoulder of Auckland-born No10 22-year-old Carbery. The Irish are favourite but any mistakes from Carbery will be pounced on by a desperate Wallabies pack. Off the field Carbery’s forced switch to Munster is also causing headlines for the wrong reasons.
Duane Vermeulen (South Africa v England)
The backrow battle between the Springboks and England is set to be titanic and whoever comes out on top in the No8 match-up – Vermeulen v Billy Vunipola – will go a long way to determining who wins the series opener. South Africa have a new look to their pack and they desperately need the big Toulon eighth man to lead from the front.
Owen Farrell (England v South Africa)
England have hit a bad patch with four losses in a row (Scotland, France, Ireland and the Barbarians) and the wheels definitely seem to be coming off Eddie Jones’ all conquering side. The man entrusted with righting the ship is his captain, and best player, the Saracens No10. England certainly have the talent but it will up to Farrell to make sure they have the focus and urgency to pull off a much needed test win.
Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina v Wales)
The 23-year-old Jaguares pace-man has been in outstanding form in Super Rugby this season, sitting third on the top try-scorers list with 10 tries. His devastating finishing has played a big part in the Argentinian team making a run to the playoffs. Boffelli has been switched to fullback for the Wales test and the Pumas will need his superb finishing if they are to continue their winning streak at international level.
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand v France)
It may seem a ridiculous statement to make but the Hurricanes superstar, the World Rugby Player of the Year for the last two years, is fighting to hold on to the All Blacks No10 jersey. Such is the depth of New Zealand rugby that Barrett’s spot is under threat from the Crusaders Richie Mo’unga and the Chiefs Damian McKenzie. Barrett will want a big game to claim back his status as the first choice No10.
The Munster flanker skippers his country for the fourth time at Suncorp Stadium as they look to build on their Grand Slam success in the spring.
Joe Schmidt has made six changes to the team that beat England to secure that success in March with Carbery starting at fly-half ahead of Johnny Sexton, who is on the bench, while Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, John Ryan, Jordi Murphy and Robbie Henshaw come into the side.
There is plenty of focus on 22-year-old Carbery, who last week confirmed that he would be moving from Leinster to Munster next season.
O’Mahony has encouraged all of the players who have come into the side to rise to the challenge.
Joey Carbery to start at outhalf for Ireland against Australia https://t.co/Ku7b4p1zvg— Irish Times Sport (@IrishTimesSport) June 6, 2018
“We talk about guys being able to slot in and of building a squad and guys having to take their opportunities. These are the opportunities that you can’t let pass you by,” the Corkman said.
“This is the standard of Rugby that you want to be playing at and with the squad that we’ve built, certainly over the last two or three years, we always say that guys should slot in seamlessly and that’s the way we run things.”
O’Mahony, who captained the Lions in the first Test against New Zealand last year, has been impressed with the way Carbery has responded to his surprise inclusion.
“It’s been great. He’s an incredible footballer,” he said.
“He’s really grown into that leadership role. I suppose over the past two years he’s been getting better and better and he’s a big character in the squad, which you need from your 10.
“I think he’s growing all the time and it’s a huge opportunity for him tomorrow.”
Australia are determined to begin their season by taking a 1-0 lead in the series and coach Michael Cheika has brought David Pocock back into the team after his hiatus last year.
Reds pair Caleb Timu and Brandon Paenga-Amosa will make their debuts in Brisbane, while Crusaders flanker Pete Samu is likely to join them off the bench.
Captain Michael Hooper has called on his team to bring a positive approach to the clash.
“We’d be silly not to run the ball with some of the strike power we’ve got,” he said.
“We’ve got a really fit team – forwards who want to work and get over the advantage-line.
“We’ve a mobile back row and we’ve seen during the Super Rugby season some of the damage that the backs can do and some of the form that our play-makers are in.
“We’ve got to be smart in how we do it.
“Some of this stuff needs a little bit of a tweak sometimes in how we relieve pressure at times because we know that the Irish are good – they build pressure.
“We saw what they did to some teams in the Six Nations, how they can put up a kick anywhere on the field and keep putting pressure on you so how we deal with that is critical.”
It’s a packed weekend of international rugby with the All Blacks taking on France, the Wallabies hosting Six Nations champions Ireland, England in South Africa and Argentina up against Wales.
In other matches there is a double header in Suva as Fiji and Samoa battle out a local derby and Tonga face Georgia, while Italy travel to Japan.
All the line-ups for the eagerly waited tests are below:
New Zealand vs France (Auckland)
New Zealand (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Ben Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Liam Squire; Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock (captain), Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape.
France (15-1): Maxime Medard; Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud (captain), Geoffrey Doumayrou, Remy Grosso; Anthony Belleau, Morgan Parra; Kevin Gourdon, Fabien Sanconnie, Judicael Cancoriet; Yoann Maestri, Paul Gabrillagues, Uini Atonio, Camille Chat, Dany Priso. Reserves: Adrien Pelissie, Cyril Baille, Rabah Slimani, Bernard Le Roux, Alexandre Lapandry, Baptiste Serin, Jules Plisson, Gael Fickou.
Australia vs Ireland (Brisbane)
Australia (15-1): Israel Folau; Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Caleb Timu, Michael Hooper (captain), David Pocock; Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Scott Sio. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge.
Ireland (15-1): Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; C.J. Stander, Jordi Murphy, Peter O’Mahony; Iain Henderson, James Ryan, John Ryan, Rob Herring, Jack McGrath. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Johnny Sexton, Jordan Larmour.
South Africa vs. England (Johannesburg)
South Africa (15-1): Willie le Roux; S’busiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi (captain); Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane or Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw or Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Warrick Gelant.
England (15-1): Elliot Daly; Jonny May, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Mike Brown; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Chris Robshaw; Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, Brad Shields, Nathan Hughes, Ben Spencer, Piers Francis, Denny Solomona.
Argentina vs. Wales (San Juan)
Argentina (15-1): Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de le Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Gonzalo Bertranou; Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera; Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (captain), Santiago Garcia Botta. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Javier Diaz, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Sebastian Cancelliere
Wales (15-1): Hallam Amos; Josh Adams, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, George North; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Ross Moriarty, James Davies, Seb Davies; Cory Hill (captain), Adam Beard, Dillon Lewis, Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones. Reserves: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Tomas Francis, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin.
Fiji vs. Samoa (Suva)
Fiji (15-1): Kini Murimurivalu; Benito Masilevu, Jale Vatubua, Sevanaia Galala, Verniki Goneva; Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli; Akapusi Qera (captain), Viliame Mata, Dominiko Waqaniburotu; Leone Nakawara, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Manasa Saulo, Talemaitoga Tuapati, Campese Ma’afu. Reserves: Ratu Vere Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Ropate Rinakama, Sikeli Nabou, Nemani Nagusa, Serupepeli Vularika, Alivereti Veitokani, Timoci Nagusa.
Samoa (15-1): Ah See Tuala; Ed Fidow, Rey Lee-Lo, Alapati Leiua, Sinoti Sinoti; Tusi Pisi, Melani Matavao; Mat Luamanu, Jack Lam, Piula Faasalele; Chris Vui (captain), Josh Tyrell, Paul Alo-Emile, Motu Matu’u, Logovii Mulipola. Reserves: Seilala Lam, Jordan Lay, Viliamu Afatia, Joe Tekori, T.J. Ioane, Dwayne Polataivao, Rodney Iona, Paul Perez.
Tonga vs. Georgia (Suva)
Tonga (15-1): Sione Fifita; David Halaifonua, Nafi Tuitavake, Siale Piutau (captain), Penikolo Latu; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Nasi Manu, Fotu Lokotui, Daniel Faleafa; Joe Tuineau, Leva Fifita, David Lolohea Paul Ngauamo, Siegfried Fisiihoi. Reserves: Sosefo Sakalia, David Feao, Ben Tameifuna, Valentino Mapapalangi, Michael Faleafa, Shinnosuke Tu’umoto’oa, Latiume Fosita, Viliami Lolohea.
Georgia (15-1): Soso Matiashvili; Anzor Sitchinava, Davit Kacharava, Giorgi Kveseladze, Alexander Todua; Lasha Khmaladze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Gachechiladze, Otar Giorgadze, Shalva Sutiashvili; Nodar Tcheishvili, Giorgi Nemsadze (captain), Levan Chilachava, Shalva Mamukashvili, Karlen Asieshvili. Reserves: Jaba Bregvadze, Giorgi Tetrashvili, Irakli Mirtskhulava, Konstantin Mikautadze, Saba Shubitidze, Giorgi Begadze, Lasha Malaghuradze, Merab Kvirikashvili.
Japan vs. Italy (Oita)
Japan (15-1): Kotaru Matsushima; Lomano Lemeki, Will Tupou, Timothy Lafaele, Kenki Fukuoka; Yu Tamura, Fumiaki Tanaka; Amanaki Mafi, Michael Leitch (captain), Kazuki Himeno; Samuela Anise, Wimpie Van Der Walt, Ji-Won Koo, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki. Reserves: Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara, Takuma Asahara, Uwe Helu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryoto Nakamura.
Italy (15-1): Matteo Minozzi; Tommaso Benevenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Tommaso Castello, Mattia Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Marcello Violi; Abraham Steyn, Giovanni Licata, Sebastian Negri; Dean Budd, Alessandro Zanni, Tiziano Pasquali, Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), Andrea Lovotti. Reserves: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Giosue Zilocchi, George Biagi, Marco Fuser, Jake Polledri, Tito Tebaldi, Jayden Hayward.