Preview: Wales chase series win while Ireland and England look to draw level
Another feast of rugby awaits aficionados with Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales all in action as the summer touring season continues.
Wales will be happiest of the quartet so far. Travelling without players of the calibre of Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Sam Warburton, Warren Gatland’s side having defeated South Africa in Washington DC in their first match of the summer and also overcame Argentina in the opener of the two-Test series last week.
They will aim to complete a winning series in Argentina when they take on the Pumas in Santa Fe on Saturday.
Last week, the widely fancied home side, mostly made up of in-form Jaguares players, were seen off by a combination of committed, organised defence and well-timed bursts of attacking flair.
Victory on Argentine soil is no easy feat – Wales lost their last series in Argentina (2006) by two Tests to nil. A victory for Wales in this series would represent a welcome boost and evidence of the quality of an emerging generation that is showing both leadership and attacking prowess in abundance.
Argentina will, of course, come equipped with increased motivation and a refreshed gameplan but a repeat of the same formula that worked so well last week could well see Wales walk away with a valuable series win.
Ireland and England are looking to return to winning ways having both experienced frustrating reverses a week ago.
Fielding a slightly inexperienced XV, Ireland gave themselves a chance of success in Brisbane but were ultimately undone by Australia’s ‘X-Factor’ in a tough final quarter.
The return of Johnny Sexton could see Ireland deliver a revamped attacking gameplan, with Garry Ringrose offering a different type of attacking threat at outside-centre. In the pack, Dan Leavy gets the chance to test his skills against David Pocock and Michael Hooper and will be tasked with boosting Ireland’s threat on the deck and ability to clear out their own ball effectively. Tadhg Beirne’s long-awaited first Irish cap, likely to come off the bench, could see Ireland receive a timely boost in that contest in the second half.
Ireland’s experienced selection may just do enough in Melbourne to set up a decider in Sydney a week later.
England also have conundrums to solve. Their long wait for a win over South Africa – which now extends to 13 games and stretches back to November 2006 – is one of the stranger anomalies in the world of rugby given the highs and lows both sides have experienced over the last decade.
Highly effective as an attacking force in the opening quarter in the first Test, they also almost completed a great escape in the dying minutes.
It is the discipline and defensive issues they experienced in the long-stretch in between that will most concern Eddie Jones and his players.
It is never easy to win on the high veldt, but England will hope that if they can get their penalty count under control and limit the impact of star South African half-back Faf de Klerk, they may just end that sequence.
Having accomplished their mission in good style by seeing off Canada last week, Scotland take on a USA side that has notched up some strong results recently (2am UK and Ireland time).
Stuart Hogg has the honour of captaining his country for the first time and is part of a strong-looking back-three that also includes Blair Kinghorn and Byron McGuigan.
A tricky challenge awaits but one that Gregor Townsend’s well-drilled young squad should be more than capable of surmounting with hooker George Turner – who scored a hat-trick off the back of Scotland’s highly effective driving maul last week as a substitute – perhaps in line for more glory as part of the starting line-up this time.