West Ghana, Bronx – With the USA’s Memorial Day Weekend starting tomorrow (Saturday, if you’re in American Samoa), that can only mean one thing. Start of summer…TOURS!!!
Summer, Rugby Fans, marks the start of the centuries old tour to the Southern Hemisphere by the Northern Hemisphere nations (read Europe).
But as the game has evolved, Argentina has been included in the Summer Tours along with USA and Canada. The Tier 1 Six Nations sides tour along with some of the Tier 2 sides – like Georgia. However, the focus is always on the Tier 1 Six nations sides and how they match up with the Tier 1 Southern Hemisphere sides of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, aka SANZAR (Soon to be SANZAAR, with the extra A for Argentina). With the growth of the game a sojourn to North America also looked at as some good developmental games for Tier 1 sides.
The history of the summer tours has usually been in favor of the SANZAR nations. The Six Nations sides are coming of a long regular season in addition to the Six Nations and nowadays Heiniken Cup/Amlin Challenge. Meanwhile the SANZAAR side have completed a regular season only half as long as the Northerners, so they are hitting their mid-season stride. Let’s look at the 6N squads, their destinations my dark previews and predictions:
England: 3-match Test Tour of South Africa. They will lose the Test series 2 to 1. Stuart Lancaster already has such a young team and he is still trying to build depth. Meyer, still has a few core parts from the the 2011 RWC and that will provide the experience edge needed.
Ireland: 3-match Test Tour of New Zealand: They will lose the Test series 2 to 1. Ireland will lose but it will be hailed as a great tour. It will be regarded as such because that one win will be Ireland’s first ever win over NZ. Steve Hansen and NZ will be without key “in tight” guys Brad Thorn and Jerome Kaino and I just don’t think the replacements are ready for prime-time.
Scotland: 4-match Test Tour of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa (1 Test Each): They will win all Tests and have a 4-0 tour. Scotland have the great fortune of playing Australia on a day when the Super 15 players are still in action (Crazy, I know). This means Australia-select will be weak, giving Scotland the edge. They will steamroll the Cook Islands, they will struggle to beat Fiji and Samoa, but neither of those two ever have a full compliment of players.
Wales: 3-match Test Tour of Australia: They will win the Test Series 2 to 1. Rob Howley has the fortune of poor scheduling much like Scotland. He seems to have planned out his first team and those on the outside ahead of time, and Wales are play so well now their confidence is through the roof and that will carry them through.
France: 2-match Test Tour of Argentina: Split the tour 1 to 1. It is the French and they are consistently inconsistent in playing impressively and winning games. They will start the first Test not firing on all cylinders. It will take the first game lose for them to focus and play well in the second.
Italy: 3-match Test Tour of Argentina, Canada and USA (1 Test Each): Split the tour 1-1-1. They will take a hard lose against their cousins in Argentina. They will bounce back to tie Canada and finally, I see them mustering up a sense of pride that they didn’t play with in the first two games, to beat the USA.
These tests will get the Southern Nations ready for their main tournament, The Rugby Championship (aka the 4 Nations). Only time will tell the talent that emerges or is wasted by the coaching staff.
In the meantime, stay low and keep pumping those legs.