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.
Rugby Africa held an Executive meeting in Gaborone, Botswana on May 25 where it lifted the suspension on the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) from participating in any international championship and pledged to help the game grow in the country.
Nigeria was suspended from all international activities following a leadership crisis that trailed last year’s election in to the board of the federation. The suspension stopped Nigeria from featuring in some international engagements in 2017.
Rugby Africa’s new stance is not unrelated to the outcome of its investigations into the crisis.
Rugby Africa’s top Executive Mr Khaled Babbou reported that the NRFF General Assembly held in March, 2018 was properly constituted and that the new constitution which had been reviewed ahead of time was lawfully adopted by stakeholders to chart a new path for rugby in Nigeria.
Rugby Africa has lifted the suspension on the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) from participating in any international championship and pledged to help the game grow in the country. pic.twitter.com/jptrOBEHGU— Green Rose (@pikeriepk) June 8, 2018
‘’As far as Rugby Africa is concerned, this means that the NRFF is eligible to participate in the Regional Sevens Prequalifier tournament which will take place in Cote d’Ivoire in September. Further detail will be communicated about this competition from our office’’, said President of Rugby Africa – Abdelaziz Bougja in the letter written to NRFF President on Monday.
NRFF President, Kelechukwu Mbagwu commended Rugby Africa for giving Nigeria the nod to rejoin the international scene. He pledged that his administration would not relent in making rugby more popular in the country.
“I am happy to see that Nigeria is back to the international scene. On assuming office as the president of (NRFF), I stated that it would not take too long for Nigeria to be back in the international scene.”
“The journey had not been easy, but I thank God Rugby Afrique understood the need to develop rugby in Nigeria by lifting the ban.”
“We are grateful. This recent development would make the NRFF to redouble it efforts and keep working hard to reposition the national rugby team (The Black Stallions), the female team, Nigerian domestic clubs and grassroots development programmes,” he said.
Nigeria will be playing Niger Republic who are champions of the Super 16 rugby tourney in a friendly game in August.
Talks are still ongoing with the Ghana national team for another tune up game. These are all geared to put the national team on the right track to contend with other teams at the international level.
“Cote d’Ivoire would host the Rugby Africa Regional Championship later this year, but Nigeria is on the waiting list to host if they are not ready,” Mbagwu declared.
“The Northern domestic league would start on 30th June with eight clubs. The South South league, which is making its debut in Nigeria, would commence soon. My target is to see that rugby is played in all part of the country. This is why we also focus on grooming children in rugby,”
Speaking with the Teams Manager, Mr Dele Coker: ‘’We can confirm that the match against Niger Republic will take place in Niamey on the 11th of August.”
“Any prospective players who wish to represent their country at Senior Men’s, Ladies and Under 17 from within Nigeria or Abroad should complete the online forms at www.theNRFF.com to register their commitments for July, August, September and October Rugby for Nigeria.’’
Australia fought hard against their Trans-Tasman rivals coming within two points on two occasions, but New Zealand held out Australia’s pressure long enough to earn the win and top Pool A.
Australia will next play the in-form Italy at 18:30 (UAE time) on Tuesday 13 June in the battle for rankings.
Junior Wallabies Captain Tate McDermott said: “I can’t fault the boy’s efforts, we put our heart and soul into that match tonight.
“We put a show on and really had a crack at New Zealand, but they were just too good.
“We needed to capitalise on their little defensive errors, we lost the match tonight but not doing that.
“We need to keep working on our defence, we leaked a few tries in the wide channels. We’ll build on what we started tonight, and we will turn some heads in this competition.”
New Zealand opened the scoring early on through flyhalf Harry Plummer who sliced through the line to score and give New Zealand a 7-0 advantage.
The young men in gold struck back with a penalty through Isaac Lucas to lower the gap to 3-7.
New Zealand struck again through Flanders to score their second try and take the scoreboard to 3-14.
Australia struck back with their first try of the match in the 28th minute with Fraser McReight crashing over the line after some excellent lead up play by the Aussies, bringing the score to 8-14.
The strength of Australia’s scrum continued to dominate New Zealand, leading to a penalty try just before the break to bring Australia to within two points, 15-17.
New Zealand scored first in the second stanza with a penalty to Plummer, extending New Zealand’s lead to five points (15-20).
Australia countered quickly with a penalty of their own through Isaac Lucas to bring the difference to two points once again at 18-20.
Australia’s tireless defence continued to hold back New Zealand as the Junior All Blacks played within Australia’s half eventually allowing Jamie Spowart to score and extend the lead to 18-27.
A late surge by the Junior Wallabies was not enough to close the gap as Australia again asked questions of New Zealand’s scrum.
New Zealand held on and were able to claim the win and top Pool A. In the other match of the Pool Wales scrapped home against a strong Japanese side 18-17.
New Zealand will now take on hosts France, who were impressive in defeating South Africa 46-29 in Narbonne, in the semi-finals – while in the other semi England, who defeated Scotland 35-10 in Béziers to top Pool B, take on the young Boks who finished second in Pool c.