This July the two hemispheres of rugby will come together again with several major series taking place around the world.
Can Ireland win the first Test on New Zealand soil? Will Australia finally stop this loss to England? Could a struggling Wales cause disappointment in South Africa?
It’s really a tantalizing few weeks of rugby.
Read all the lineups and key team news as they come in, as well as our match previews and odds.
Other teams have not yet been announced.
Saturday 2 July
Japan: to be confirmed
France: to be confirmed
New Zealand: Geordie Barrett, Sevu Rhys, Rieko Ioan, Quinn Toupea, Lester Fainga’anuku, Boden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Kane (Captain), Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallic, Ofa Tuungafazi, Cody Taylor, George Bauer. Substitutions: Samisoni Taukeyaho, Carl Tuinukuafe, Angus Town, Peter Gus Sowakula, Dalton Papalia, Finlay Christie, Richie Mounga, Braydon Ennor.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earles, Harry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park, Calan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, James Ryan, Tudg Byrne, Tudg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter. Substitutions: Dave Heffernan, Finaly Bilham, Kayan Healy, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbury, Bundy Aki.
Chances: [tab.com.au Aus only] New Zealand $1.25–9.5 $1.85; Ireland $3.70, +9.5 $1.95
Preview: Busted by COVID, All Blacks coach Ian Foster made some surprise calls on his All Blacks first team for 2022 with Scott Barrett moving to fullback while Foster looks to ramp up his forward. Barrett’s move has become a major talking point for this team as Foster attempts to counter the physical strength the Irish Pack will bring to Eden Park, while the move also gives the hallway another option.
Another surprise decision was Ofa Tuungafasi, who received a nod towards the curmudgeon: Nepo Laulala was dropped from the top 23 list with a sore neck and George Bauer was ahead of the more experienced Carl Tuinukuafe. This is an area where the Republic of Ireland will be looking to impress with their impressive first line in Tudg Furlong and Andrew Porter looking to replicate their influence in Dublin last year, while their intense passing game has given the All Blacks a lot of headaches.
All three Barretts will get a start on Saturday, with Boden beating Richie Mounga for the #10 jersey while Jordy will start at quarterback and Foster will be forced to dig deep for his backline due to several COVID complications.
Quinn Tupea and Reiko Ioane will cover the All Blacks midfield with David Havili and Jack Goodhue through Covid while there is no room for league newcomer Roger Tuivas-Shek. Ireland will no doubt try to channel through Gary Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw as their game plan revolves heavily around Johnny Sexton.
History will be on the side of the All Blacks this week with an unbeaten record at Eden Park since 1994, but a strong win in Dublin last year will be fresh in the memory of the Irish team. It will be a tight fight and Ireland has every chance of hitting the under-strength All Blacks with the sword, but New Zealand at home, under pressure, is behaving differently. Tip: New Zealand at 3.
Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quaid Cooper, Nick White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Rob Leota, Darcy Swain, Cadeirn Neville, Allan Alaalatoa, Dave Poreki, Angus Bell. Substitutions: Sailing, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Matt Philip, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolecio, Jordan Petaia.
England: to be confirmed
Chances: [tab.com.au Aus only] Australia $1.52, -4.5 $1.90; England $2.45, +4.5 $1.90
South Africa: Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Lucagno Am, Damian de Allende, Macazol Mapimpi, Elton Junjies, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Sia Kolisi (Captain), Loud de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Substitutions: Malcolm Marks, Steven Kitschoff, Vincent Koch, Salman Moerath, Elrig Lowe, Quagga Smith, Herschel Janjis, Willy le Roux
Wales: to be confirmed
Chances: [tab.com.au, Aus only] South Africa $1.07, -18.5 $1.85; Wales 7.50, +18.5 $1.90
Elton Junjies will start at midfield and the electric Damian Willemse at defender when South Africa play Wales in the first leg of a three test home series at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Yantjes was favored over regular starter Handra Pollard, who played in the French Top 14 final on Friday to defeat Montpellier, while Willemse was selected ahead of the much more experienced Willy le Roux.
This suggests that the ‘boxes’ may try to run with the ball in hand and move away from their reliance on kicking a bit, instead hoping to tire the Welsh on high before releasing their powerful strikers off the bench.
The rest of the backline has a familiar look with flanks Macazol Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centers Lujano Am and Damian de Allende, and scrum half Faf de Klerk, who allows kicking from the base of the ruck.
The front row consists of defenders Frans Malherbe and Ox Nche, prostitute Bonga Mbonambi, castle couple Eben Etzebeth and Lud de Jager, and in the back three are captain Sia Kolisi, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese.
“We have the advantage that we have some fairly versatile players so a guy like Damian Willemse can cover a midfielder and a center in addition to a defender, while Quagga [Smith] covers each of the forward’s free positions and can even run into the flank with his Blitzbuck [Sevens] experience,” head coach Jacques Ninaber said in a South African rugby press release.
Substitutions named Salmaan Moyerath and loose forward Elry Lowe were named as replacements and are almost certain to get a run as the Boxes use their 6-2 split on the bench in the second half to re-energize the pack.
“We have a fantastic number of young players who have been training really hard and raising their hands, and as coaches we are pleased to give Salmaan and Elrig this opportunity,” says Ninaber.
“We have a plan for the season which is to give some young players the opportunity to show what they are capable of at international level and at the same time take stock of seasoned activists and find out where they are in terms of their rugby. “
The second and third tests will take place in Bloemfontein and Cape Town respectively on the next two Saturdays. Wales have lost all 10 of their previous matches in South Africa.
Argentina: to be confirmed
Scotland: to be confirmed
Chances: [tab.com.au Aus only] Argentina $1.46, -5.5 $1.90; Scotland $2.60, +5.5 $1.85