England beware Springboks’ electric wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, Warren Gatland throws down the gauntlet to his prop… and the Dublin-born fly-half (who is BLIND in one eye) who will face Ireland
- The first round of autumn Tests are this weekend, with all home nations in action
- England have selected a hugely inexperienced pack against the Springboks
- Test nations releasing ‘newer, better, lighter’ kits is getting a little tiresome
- Ian McKinley, who is blind in one eye, will play for Italy against his native Ireland
- Wales and Scotland unashamedly said they are playing only to generate money
The leaves are turning, nights are drawing and sky darkening – and that’s not just because autumn is here, but it means Test rugby is back, back, back.
We kick off the November Tests this weekend with myriad plot-lines, perhaps the most pertinent whether we should be here at all yet.
Aside from that – which has us on the soapbox below – it’s time to see how far everyone is less than a year out from the World Cup.
Do you know your Aphiwe Dyantyis from your Karl Tui’nukuafes? Or your Luke Morgans from your Adam Hastings? If you do or you don’t Scrum’s the Word can whet your appetite for the weekend of internationals ahead.
NEWS FROM ROUND THE NATIONS
PACK TO THE FUTURE?
Crikey O’Reilly, England’s pack.
A front row with four starts between them – all Kyle Sinckler’s – who have never played together.
A back row with 10 caps, one bloke out of position, who have never played together either.
And a hooker with 18 more caps than the rest of the pack put together.
The England props have just four starts between them… all belonging to Kyle Sinckler (C)
OK, Saracens lock duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis could not be more in-tune and on-wavelength – but it is anyone’s guess what to expect from the other six. ‘Fast and loose’ seems the theme.
A peer down the Springbok brutes and you see they weight 18st per man (10lbs on average heavier than their counterparts), the back-row have 10 times more caps than England’s and the whole lot of them together 125 more appearances than England.
‘Bare bones,’ we called it in Friday’s Sportsmail. Lucky the game is not played on paper, then. This is why we love rugby so much, isn’t it? England will now hammer South Africa all over TW1 and we’ll look fools for even mentioning the above.
Saracens lock duo Maro Itoje (L) and George Kruis (R), however, could not be more in-tune
He’s just been nominated for World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year having torn England apart – now Aphiwe Dyantyi is out to unleash his beast-like celebration at Twickenham.
It’s a sort of cross between Cristiano Ronaldo’s jump and arm-splay, Jan Verthongen’s shirt-ripping mime, and Yohan Blake’s effort from the track.
Score his seventh try in 10 Tests and you’ll see it. The speedster brings his fists up to his chest, crosses them before yanking them down to his sides and roaring to the heavens.
England fans will hope Dyantyi does not get the chance to unveil it once more on Saturday.
South Africa wing Aphiwe Dyantyi is up for World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year
We’ve had the ‘blackest jersey’ ever, one inspired by ‘white noise’ (don’t tell them that sends you to sleep), a shirt with ‘distraction principles’ and now, ladies and gentlemen, get your bugle out to fanfare…
‘The most cutting-edge jersey to date.’
That’s the latest claim made by the All Blacks shirt. Hang on Scrum’s the Word, can a shirt make a claim? We didn’t think so either – but due to the ridiculous levels of personification now laid upon sports gear we’ve got to be down with the kids and accept it can, apparently.
We’ve had England’s jersey inspired by ‘white noise’ (don’t tell them that sends you to sleep)
The launch of the new New Zealand rugby shirt is wonderfully bonkers – like all modern kits it can’t just be stuck on a mannequin one day, with someone pointing to it saying ‘lads, it’s black, got a fern on it and costs £80’ – no, it has to be the most something, the lightest ever, able to drive your car and call your mum on a Sunday.
This new one is so ‘cutting-edge’ it has been designed and manufactured over an 18-month period (a process which must have started just after they’d released the last shirt… honestly, how annoying must it be to produce a kit that you think can’t be beaten, then a month later go ‘oh, you know what chaps, we’ve only gone and missed a trick here’ – then have to wait a whole 18 months while the so 2017 version prances about, unaware its edges are about to be cut so spectacularly it’ll feel embarrassed for even calling itself a shirt – drum your fingers in the lab until you can release the real McCoy) and is 25 per cent lighter than previous designs.
You do wonder – a bit like when Eddie Jones says his side is 30 per cent fitter most days – that there must come a point where something literally can’t get lighter every year without ceasing to exist…
Come to think of it, they probably could have made it about 25.1 per cent lighter if they hadn’t gone and stuck 3D logos on it – seriously, the drag on those things will be extraordinary – but maybe that’s the next edge to cut.
The All Blacks’ new kit has ‘seamless, woven technology’, is elasticated, ‘raw’, cut lower to stop people grabbing it and – ‘the topic on everyone’s mind,’ says the designer – has a white collar
It also has ‘seamless, woven technology’, is made by a computer and has ‘raw, elastic cuffs’ (we have no idea either).
The jersey ‘makes its debut’ this Saturday against Japan – nice of the selectors to give it a run out before the fully-fledged England Test – and will, like most of the second-string who’ll wear it against Japan, be brutally replaced for the World Cup this time next year, only to return in 2020.
Oh and – ‘no doubt that the topic on everyone’s mind,’ as the designer says (really) – it has a white collar. Elasticated, ‘raw’ (again) and cut lower to stop people grabbing it – because that was such a blight on the game – which they didn’t previously because the outgoing shirt didn’t have one.
Personally, we can’t wait for the next shirt. We think it’ll (literally) fly.
Typical Warren Gatland – he sounds so calm when dropping bombs.
No sooner had he arrived back from New Zealand, visiting his family after the sudden death of his father, than he was pulling out the pin and rolling grenades towards Gregor Townsend and Scotland.
Adam Hastings, Wales’ 34-7 win in the Six Nations and the hurt that would have brought to Scotland were all on his agenda – but he saved his most pointed barb for his own tight-head prop.
Talking about Dillon Lewis, who fell out of favour with former Cardiff Blues boss Danny Wilson – now the Scotland forwards coach – he said: ‘I think he has a point to prove against someone like Danny Wilson who unfortunately did not rate Dillon that highly.
‘So there is a bit motivation in Dillon wanting to go out there and do well.’
There you go, Dillon. Team-talk done.
Wales coach Warren Gatland wasted no time dropping a few grenades in his press conference
A hat tip to Ian McKinley – the Italian playmaker on the Azzurri bench for Saturday’s match against Ireland in Chicago.
Surely the bravest and most inspiring Test rugby player, the 28-year-old is set to play against his homeland nation for the first time on Saturday.
The Dublin-born fly-half plays with goggles after he lost his eye after it was punctured by a stud on the field in Ireland eight-and-half years ago.
He moved to Italy having retired, but was persuaded to return to rugby playing with eye protectors. He was not allowed to play Connacht in Ireland with them on in 2015 – but now all unions approve their use.
And now McKinley, Italian qualified, will feature in a Test match against Ireland. What a remarkable man. We wish him well.
Dublin-born Ian McKinley is set to play against his native Ireland for Italy this weekend
The fly-half plays with goggles after he lost his eye after it was punctured by a stud on the field
A staple of recent autumn Tests is players sporting spectacular moustaches.
The facial growth is all in aid of ‘Movember’ – the men’s health charity – so watch out for everyone trying to look like terrifically-tached All Blacks prop Karl Tui’nukuafe.
SCRUM SOAPBOX – YOU CAN’T CHUCK THESE OUT THE WINDOW
OK, enough of the happy-go-lucky positivity in this column. Time to get all cynical.
What on earth are we doing gathering together like this?
World Rugby’s international window ain’t even open yet and here we go, heaving into grounds around the world watching teams in not-quite-tip-top condition playing in unfamiliar combinations and some in far-flung places.
Test rugby is losing its first name.
We’re not the first to tell you this but let’s really have a look at the main games this weekend and be clear about one thing – whatever window (or out of window) dressing you put on these matches it is only for the sake of Pounds, Rand, Dollars, Euros and Yen that they are happening. Yes finding combinations for the World Cup – but there are at least 13 Tests after this week to do that.
England v South Africa – One of the great rivalries sees a cobbled together home team who have barely met each other, let alone taken the field together, take on Boks shorn of their antlers by regulations.
Japan v New Zealand – So clearly to benefit key partners and sponsors rather than the storied history of the ‘Test’ game, the All Blacks did not even bother bringing their best side. Lots of the players you’ve heard of are over here and will be training in London this week. Confetti caps all round in Yokohama. Yes we want more games for Tier Two nations – but not like this, right?
Ireland v Italy – Well it’s in America for a start… and Ireland, who are one of very few nations to have all their main men available, have picked the densest shadow of a Test side with nine of the XV with 11 or fewer caps. Poor old Italy still probably don’t stand a chance. But, hey, as long as the Guinness’ flow and tills rattle in Chicago does it really matter?
And then there’s Wales v Scotland – The most labyrinthine of moral-maze matches to contemplate. On the face of it, a game that should never be played in November. The two sides are also not at full strength with those French and English-based stars absent.
Wales and Scotland had to be pressured into donating gate money to Doddie Weir’s charity
No one is even hiding it is being played for the dosh.
Warren Gatland is rightly fired up to test his squad but in September said: ‘We play the four games in the autumn and being frank it’s about generating money. It’s important for the Unions and the regions to balance the books. If it was me I possibly would have just had the three games.’
And this week Gregor Townsend added: ‘It is of importance to Scottish rugby. We are challenging on all fronts to get investment into the game – at domestic, pro and international.
‘Our pro teams have challenges against the French and English TV deals and their rich owners. If more money can be generated to help the pro teams and the rest of Scottish rugby then that is a good thing. And this is the easiest way to generate money – an extra game.’
But then you have the muddied waters of the match’s name. The Doddie Weir Cup it is called – well, now you can’t criticise that, can you? A match for one of the true great men of our game, so cruelly stricken by the awful degenerative disease that is MND – if the match is for him, raising much-needed money and awareness for such an utterly brilliant man no one could possibly shake their head at it.
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend has openly said the Wales game is to generate cash
However, it sort of isn’t. It emerged last week that not a penny was originally going to go from the proceeds of the match – which will total around £3million by the way – to Weir’s foundation set up in 2017 soon after he was diagnosed.
So this match dressed up as everything good about rugby (so often a sport that looks down its lorgnette at others boasting about its ‘values’) was actually quite the opposite.
Thank heavens then that under scrutiny and pressure from fans, players and the media, the Welsh and Scottish Rugby Unions were shamed into donating a six-figure sum to the ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’.
Good on them, eventually. Frankly, though, if they had stood firm it would have been a ghastly outcome where a good man’s name and plight was being used to sell a fourth autumn Test so plainly played to keep the Unions’ cash flowing – which they send to their regions.
To be fair to the WRU, they never marketed this match as a charity game, but the perception was all wrong – so luckily, that was belatedly dealt with.
But as for the fourth internationals themselves, in this world of ‘player welfare our number one priority’ platitudes while the season grows obese with yet more games, if they are to devalue the game so much, should not have full Test status.
Exhibition matches, fine. It might be all fire and brimstone come Saturday but most of these are not true ‘Tests’ – we’ll come back next week and the two after for those.
2002 – The last time Scotland won in Cardiff. The only time they have ever tasted victory at the Principality Stadium – and they have lost 10 of their last 11 against Wales.
2002 was the last time Scotland beat Wales in Cardiff, they have lost 10 of the last 11 in total
22 points – Needed by Owen Farrell to have hit 400 in England. Jonny Wilkinson is the only player to have scored more on these shores, with 666 points. And if he takes 30 points Farrell will have 400 at Twickenham too (Wilkinson took 650). Farrell also only needs six to notch 100 v South Africa in 10 matches (Wilkinson, 127 in nine)
12th – 10-12-13 combination Eddie Jones has used for England. Ben Te’o and Henry Slade have never played alongside each other.
- Ford-Farrell-Joseph 17 matches
- Ford-Farrell-Te’o 3
- Ford-Lozowski-Slade 2
- Ford-Farrell-Slade 2
- Ford-Burrell-Joseph 1
- Farrell-Burrell-Joseph 1
- Ford-Farrell-Daly 1
- Ford-Francis-Slade 1
- Ford-Slade-Joseph 1
- Farrell-Te’o-Joseph 1
- Cipriani-Farrell-Slade 1
- Farrell-Te’o-Slade 1
6 wins – From six for Ireland in the USA. They have never lost in the States, having beaten the Americans five times and the All Blacks – most famously – in Chicago once in 2016. They are back at Soldier Field to play Italy this Saturday.
44 tries – Scored in 49 World Series Sevens matches last season by Welsh wing wizard Luke Morgan who makes his debut on Saturday against Scotland. He is Wales’ 7s top points scorer of all time with 655 and top try scorer with 131 in 202 games.
Wales debutant on the wing Luke Morgan scored 44 tries in 49 matches for the sevens side
WEEKEND TEST MATCH GUIDES
ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA
Saturday 3pm Twickenham, London LIVE Sky Sports Main Event from 2.30pm
England: Daly; Nowell, Slade, Te’o, May; Farrell, Youngs; Hepburn, Hartley, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Shields, Curry, Wilson.
South Africa: Willemse; Nkosi, Kriel, De Allende, Dyantyi; Pollard, van Zyl; Kitshoff, Marx, Malherbe, Etzebeth, P-S du Toit, Kolisi, Vermeulen, Whiteley.
Prediction: South Africa – Bok bruisers to batter England black and blue.
WALES v SCOTLAND
Saturday, 2.45pm Principality Stadium, Cardiff LIVE BBC from 2.15pm
Wales: Halfpenny; North, J Davies, Parkes, L Morgan; Anscombe, G Davies; Smith, Owens, Lewis, Hill, AW Jones, Lydiate, Tipuric, Moriarty.
Scotland: Kinghorn; Seymour, H Jones, Dunbar, L Jones; Hastings, Price; Dell, McInally, Nel, Toolis, J Gray, Ritchie, Watson.
Prediction: Wales – Scotland are poor away from home, and Wales have big-guns back.
IRELAND v ITALY
Saturday Soldier Field, Chicago 8pm LIVE Premier Sports
Ireland: Larmour, Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale, Carbery, McGrath, McGrath, Scannell, Porter, Beirne, Roux, Ruddock, Van der Flier, Conan.
Italy: Spendario; Bellini, Campagnaro, Morisi, Bisegni; Canna, Tebaldi; Quaglio, Bigi, Pasquali, Fuser, Biagi, Meyer, Steyn, Giammarioli.
Prediction: Ireland – no chance Italy are winning this one.
JAPAN v NEW ZEALAND
Saturday Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
Japan: Yamanaka; Henry, Tupou, Lafaele, Fukuoka; Tamara, Nagere; Inagaki, Sakate, Yamashita, van der Walt, Anise, Leitch, Himeno, Tui.
New Zealand: J Barrett; Milner-Skudder, Proctor, Laumape, Naholo; Mo’unga, Tahuriorangi; Tu’ungafasi, Coles, Ta’avo, Tuipulotu, Hemopo, Fifita, Papali’I, L Whitelock.
Prediction: New Zealand – Could be a VERY tough day at the office for the hosts.
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