Leinster and Zebre will trailblaze on behalf of the Guinness Pro14 this weekend, becoming the first sides to play on South African soil. There is nothing quite like touring to create a special bond between players, fans and the host community. Leinster’s two-match trip is not quite of the same duration or scale as a Lions Tour, but the hope must be the return of this aspect of rugby to the elite club sphere will help to foster friendship and respect in the best traditions of our great game!
The Aviva Premiership will also make a bold stride into new territory when Newcastle and Saracens face off in Philadelphia (interestingly, the Lions played a role in maintaining the links between North American and European rugby with matches in Canada in the 1970s). You can read a preview of the match here. Saracens prop Titi Lamositele has been filling the Saracens website in on the importance of the match.
Lions birthdays this week include Richard Sharp, Dave Hewitt, Tim Stimpson, Roger Uttley, Delme Thomas, Donal Lenihan, Luke Fitzgerald, Ben Cohen, Sean Maitland, Andy Irvine, Hugo McNeill, Mike Catt and Alun Wyn Jones….the basis for quite an interesting XV!
This wonderful try scored by Andy – sparked by a trademark Phil Bennett sidestep – is part of our ‘Lions Classic’ series on YouTube.
On the international scene, England have announced an additional fixture against New Zealand in 2018. That will give several English Lions a chance to renew rivalry while younger players will look to press their claims for Six Nations and Rugby World Cup honours. Looking farther ahead, players who can impress against the All Blacks will also have done their chances of future inclusion on Lions Tours no harm. Scottish and Welsh Lions will have their chance to take on New Zealand on home soil this November.
The Rugby Championship has proved an engaging offering for rugby fans the past few weeks (filling that early Saturday slot occupied by the Lions over the summer!). Australia and Argentina have both performed above expectations – with some attributing their success to adoption of elements of the Lions gameplan. New Zealand remain unbeaten after three rounds. South Africa will have their chance against the All Blacks on Saturday morning. Can a resurgent South Africa emulate the Lions by winning on New Zealand soil? The action is live on Sky Sports from 8am.
A tough former opponent of the Lions is on the move northwards. Northampton Saints have secured the services of South African flanker Heinrich Brüssow from January 2018. Capped 23 times by the Springboks, Brüssow became one of the top operators in World Rugby during the 2009 British & Irish Lions Tour when his performance for the Cheetahs earned him a starting place in the first Test. His impact was immediate – scoring a try in their 26-21 win in Durban. The flanker would start the second Test from the bench before wearing the no.6 jersey for the final game of the series.
This weekend’s rugby will be tinged with sadness in Ulster. Nevin Spence, along with his father Noel and brother Graham, passed away five years this week in a tragic farming accident. A powerful young centre, Nevin was tipped by many for higher honours having already made 42 appearances with Ulster by the age of 22. As part of their ongoing efforts to remember him, Ulster have produced a short documentary on Nevin titled ‘Nevin Spence: Always With Us’, which can be viewed here on the Ulster website.