A tremendous handful of matches await for avid fans this weekend. Not only will a quartet of legendary internationals; Dan Carter, Sergio Parisse, Martin Castrogiovanni and Gethin Jenkins, be making their 100th appearance for their respected countries, but expectations are high for a resounding Northern Hemisphere display. England fans will be hoping for a repeat of last years historic demolition of the All Blacks, whilst Schmidt’s Ireland are planning to put another thorn in the side of the Wallabies who have been wounded after an inconsistent run of displays.
On offer this weekend we have the committed, defensive solidity of Lancaster’s England versus the highly clinical, gorgeous rugby of the All Blacks.
Ireland’s powerful, choke tackling style against the Wallabies superior creativity and pace.
Wales’ physicality and Halfpenny’s golden boot as opposed to a hard working, dynamic scrummaging Pumas side.
France’s inconsistent but resoundingly mesmerising, free-flowing rugby versus a muscle bound Tonga team.
An experienced, solid Italian side will take on a typically fascinating, exciting Fiji.
Plus, on Sunday, an ever improving, balanced, ‘double Gray’ Scotland compete for their 6th ever win against the attritional, impressive Boks.
England v New Zealand
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 David Wilson, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Alex Goode.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ryan Crotty
Dan Carter will receive his 100th cap.
England- Both Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola are ruled out therefore Marler retains his starting spot and 1 Cap Wasps man, Matt Mullan comes onto the bench. Dan Cole has been backed to shine after managing to pip David Wilson, who had been favoured to take the 3 jersey. Ashton and Tomkins especially will be looking for their best performances in a Red Rose jersey after continued criticism. England have only lost one game in 2013.
NZ- Cory Jane is ruled out after starting on the Right Wing against France, Julian Savea is brought in to replace him. Piutau will move to the Right Wing to let Savea play on his favoured flank. Andrew Hore could possibly be playing in his last ever Test match. Be interesting to see if the likes of Kieran Read can continue their fine form.
Ireland v Australia
Ireland: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Brian O’Driscoll, 12-Luke Marshall, 11-Fergus McFadden, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Eoin Reddan; 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Paul O’Connell, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 7-Sean O’Brien, 8-Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Stephen Archer, 19-Mike McCarthy, 20-Kevin McLaughlin, 21-Conor Murray, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Robbie Henshaw
Australia: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Ben Mowen (captain), 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-James Horwill, 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper.
Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota Nau, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Paddy Ryan, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Nic White, 22-Christian Leali’lifano, 23-Joe Tomane
Ireland- Healy comes back into the side, with Reddan and Marshall being favoured over Lions Murray and D’Arcy, plus Schmidt has made another three changes. An experienced, heavy pack will make it tough for the Wallabies to gain an attacking platform. Sexton will give Ireland a bit more kicking prowess after he is released for duty. Hopefully one of the worlds, if not the worlds best Coach, Joe Schmidt can nail the tactics for the encounter.
Australia- Simmons returns back to the ‘row’ as Scott Fardy is called back into the XV after overcoming injury. Kepu comes in for Alexander. The Australian backline have now played a few games together and that can hopefully allow them to fire on all cylinders. As long as the likes of Folau and Genia are on the mark, there is no reason why they could win comfortably against the Irish.
Wales v Argentina
Wales: 15-Leigh Halfpenny; 14-George North, 13-Cory Allen, 12-Scott Williams, 11-Liam Williams; 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Mike Phillips; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Richard Hibbard, 3-Rhodri Jones, 4-Bradley Davies, 5-Alun-Wyn Jones, 6-Sam Warburton, 7-Justin Tipuric, 8-Toby Faletau.
Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Paul James, 18-Samson Lee, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Ryan Jones, 21-Lloyd Williams, 22-James Hook, 23-Ashley Beck
Argentina: 15-Joaquin Tuculet; 14-Horacio Agulla, 13-Marcelo Bosch, 12-Santiago Fernandez, 11-Santiago Cordero; 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Martin Landajo; 1-Marcos Ayerza, 2-Eusebio Guinazu, 3-Maximilano Bustos, 4-Manuel Carizza, 5-Patricio Albacete, 6-Pablo Matera, 7-Juan Farias Cabello, 8-Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
Replacements: 16-Santiago Iglesias Valdes, 17-Nahuel Lobo, 18-Matias Diaz, 19-Tomas Lavanini, 20-Leonardo Senatore, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Gabriel Ascarate, 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Gethin Jenkins earns his 100th cap.
Wales- Gatland has had to make a few tweaks to his side with Lions; Lydiate, Adam Jones and Jonathan Davies all suffering injury. Debutant Cory Allen has been brought in to add a creative flair, whilst Liam Williams is fit to partner North again on the flanks. Biggar will be looking to prove his worth after being favoured over Scarlet Priestland.
Argentina- Hourcade has moved a few things about with Carizza taking the place of Galarza who returned to play for Worcester this evening. Tuculet is preferred to Amorosino and Cordero makes his full International debut after Imhoff was injured against England.
Italy v Fiji
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Giovambattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Valerio Bernabo, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Nemani Nadolo, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Serenaia Bai, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotukula, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Apisai Naikatini, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jereremaia Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Seremaia Namaralevu, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Sisa Koyamaibole, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Waisea Luveniyali, 23 Adriu Delai.
Parisse and Castro earn their 100th cap.
Italy- Only seven players maintain their starting spot after Brunel harshly dropped the majority of players who lost 20-50 to the Aussies. A very experienced Back Row will make life much easier for Gori and Orquera to trouble the Fijian defence.
Fiji- Honours are even in previous encounters bewteen these two. The likes of Nagusa have been on fantastic form and Mali was happy with their solid performance against Portugal. Can they upset a strong, hurting Azzurri?
France v Tonga
France: Dulin, Guitoune, Fickou, Fofana, Medard, Tales, Parra, Chouly, Ouedraogo, Dusautoir (c), Maestri, Vahaamahina, Mas, Szarzewski, Forestier.
Replacements: Kayser, Debaty, Slimani, Pape, Le Roux, Pelissie, Michalak, Bastareaud.
Tonga: Lilo, Vainikolo, Piutau, Piukala, Helu, ‘Apikotoa, Moa, Fonua, Langilangi (c), Kalamafoni, Tu’ineau, Lokotui, Mailau, Taione, Taumalolo.
Replacements: Ma’asi, Vea, Puafisi, Ma’afu, T-Pole, Fisilau, Fosita, Halaifonua.
France- 5 changes have been made to Saint-Andre to a side that pushed the All Blacks close last week. Fickou is the most interesting inclusion. The exceptional Toulouse youngster could add flair and even more attacking prowess to a scintillating backline. France need a win after 1 test win in their last 9.
Tonga- The Tongans will be sore after their loss to Romania last weekend. Giant Bayonne Back Row, Opeti Fonua starts at 8 alongside Gloucester man Sione Kalamafoni. Tonga were the victors last time these two teams met.
Scotland v South Africa
Scotland: 15-Sean Maitland, 14-Tommy Seymour, 13-Nick De Luca, 12-Duncan Taylor, 11-Sean Lamont, 10-Ruaridh Jackson, 9-Greig Laidlaw (captain),; 1-Alasdair Dickinson, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Moray Low, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Jim Hamilton, 6-Alasdair Strokosch, 7-John Barclay, 8-David Denton
Replacements: 16-Scott Lawson, 17-Ryan Grant, 18-Geoff Cross, 19-Jonny Gray, 20-John Beattie, 21-Chris Cusiter, 22-Duncan Weir, 23-Max Evans.
South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-JP Pietersen, 13-Jaque Fourie, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Fourie du Preez; 1-Gurthro Steenkamp, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 3-Frans Malherbe, 4-Bakkies Botha, 5-Flip van der Merwe, 6-Francois Louw, 7-Willem Alberts or Siya Kolisi, 8-Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16-Bismarck du Plessis, 17-Tendai Mtawarira, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Eben Etzebeth, 20-Marcell Coetzee, 21-Ruan Pienaar, 22-Morne Steyn, 23-JJ Engelbrecht
Scotland- There are an array of changes for Scott Johnson’s side, with Laidlaw receiving the armband after Brown is rested. The likes of Taylor, Hamilton and Richie Gray also come into the side. It is possible that both Richie and Jonny could play together for the first time at International level. The likes of Seymour and Maitland will want to prove themselves with Visser and Hogg out injured.
SA- Bakkies is back! The enforcer will partner Flip van der Merwe in the Second Row. The beast has been dropped to the bench with Le Roux coming into the side to fill the 15 shirt. With a few of the top players rested, the Boks will be tested, but will rely on their sheer power and dynamism to see another win over the Scots.