West Ghana, NYC – As you probably know, Tier 2 and Tier 3 rugby nations are often referred to as Minnows. However, the IRB is working hard to improve these nations by increasing their yearly tests and international exposure. In trying to help with that exposure, here is Part 3 of our 4-part series on the November Internationals.
Samoa: The majority of their 29-man training group is UK-based and this makes them dangerous. Whether Samoan or European-based, expect the side that goes out to be physical and dynamic in the centers and backrow. Also look for the dynamic Kahn Fotuali’i at scrum-half and captain David Lemi (above photo) on the wing. The Samoans will look to make a statement against the 6N sides that they will face.
Tonga: Much like their Pacific Island brothers, the Tongan’s will have a strong side filled with European-based players. The 35-man squad boasts the worlds fastest prop, Sona Taumalolo (photo). You may remember Sona for his on-field challenge for the French to go for a scrum instead of a penalty kick in the RWC game that Tonga won. Expect more of the same from Taumalolo and Soane Tonga’uiha and flanker Hale T-Pole (Tevita Hale Nai Tu’uhoko). The Tongan’s are arguably the most physical of the Pacific Island nations. Teams can expect to walk out battered and bruised, regardless of the result.
Fiji: The Fijians tend to bring a mixed bag to the November Tours. They will be without seasoned campaigner Sosi Koyamboile due to a 12-week ban for biting an opponent. In fairness, Sosi denied that charge but failed to show for the hearing. The 32-man squad will posses world class backs likes Vereniki Goneva and Waisea Nayacalevu (left). Don’t dismiss their forwards, either. Prop Deacon Manu will make his presence known. The Fijians are looking to build from the RWC 2011, and have the players to do so.
Japan: Lead by former Australia Head Coach Eddie Jones, this may be the best Japan team to date. The team boasts the smallest number of foreign-born players with 4. Of that four, 3 will be in the forwards, who will be lead by the foreign-born Michael Broadhurst. Players of note are Shota Horie and Fumiaki Tanaka (photo) , both of the Panasonic Wild Knights, Sonny Bill Williams‘ team. Both Horie and Tanaka spent their fall playing with Otago in NZ’s ITM Cup. Tanaka’s form earned him a Super 15 contract from the Highlanders. Japan won’t run you over but they can and will run you ragged.
Romania: The Romanian 32-man squad will be much like the Georgians. They will be tough in the forwards but backline play will be critical to success. The squad has replaced RWC captain, Marius Tincu, who retired. They will be looking to get younger in these tests as they find out who can make the step. The European Nations Cup – aka 6 Nations B – in February, is the target.
Canada: The Canadians are dangerous. They had a good summer tour beating Team USA and Georgia and just let a victory against Italy slip. They also had their A side finish second in the Americas Rugby Championship, losing to ARC winner, Argentina. Standouts from the ARC Tyler Arnon and Taylor Paris will combine with seasoned internationals Aaron Carpenter and Jebb Sinclair. Head coach Kieran Crowley hopes that his 26-man squad has the right mix of youth and experience to make 2012 one of the most successful years in Rugby Canada history.
USA: Like the Georgians, the Team USA has waited until the last minute to release its team. The 27-man squad will be without injured Summer Tour starters Taylor Mokate, top talent Samu Manoa of the Northampton Saints and young talent Cam Nolan. Despite a less than stellar appearance at the ARC, Geariod McDonald is expected to be given an opportunity to compete for the #10 jersey at fly-half. All-world Captain Todd Clever will be there along the Euro-based players like Scott Lavalla, Chris Wyles and Takudzwa “Z” Ngwenya. USA Rugbyfans are hoping the team will gel and they will be able to put the handling errors and poor discipline that hurt them in the summer tours and the A side in the ARC.
Here is a look at the full Fall Test Schedule, including referee assignments (paging Cody Kuxmann) for those of you that are curious.
That is it for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.