Eddie Jones names England squad to face Argentina

By Thomas Branston

Dylan Hartley captains the side in their first test against Argentina. 

Eddie Jones has named his 23-man squad to face Argentina in San Juan on Saturday and the Australian will hand debuts to Tom Curry, Alex Lozowski, Harry Williams and Mark Wilson.

Dylan Hartley will make his 85th cap for England as he captains an altered side for the first of two tests against the Pumas.

Jones has also named seven uncapped players on the bench including Northampton Saints new signing Piers Francis, who joined up with the squad on Monday evening from Auckland, and Denny Solomona, who has recovered from his foot injury that almost ended his chance of touring.

Other uncapped players include Worcester’s Jack Singleton, Will Collier, Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe, and Exeter Chiefs pair Don Armand and Jack Maunder.

England side to face Argentina | 15. Mike Brown, (VC), 14. Marland Yarde, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Alex Lozowski, 11. Jonny May, 10. George Ford (VC), 9. Danny Care (VC); 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Dylan Hartley (C), 3. Harry Williams, 4. Joe Launchbury, 5. Charlie Ewels, 6. Mark Wilson, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Nathan Hughes

Replacements | 16. Jack Singleton, 17. Matt Mullan, 18. Will Collier, 19. Nick Isiekwe, 20. Don Armand, 21. Jack Maunder, 22. Piers Francis, 23. Denny Solomona


BNZ Crusaders vs the British and Irish Lions: Everything you need to know

By Thomas Branston

Israel Dagg named in starting XV to face the Lions.

The British and Irish Lions travel to Christchurch to face the BNZ Crusaders at the AMI Stadium on Saturday as they look to bounce back from their recent defeat to the Blues in Auckland.

Warren Gatland has named his squad ahead of the tie and Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones will captain the side that includes Owen Farrell and George North, who will make their first starts of this tour.

The hosts will make history on Saturday when they will face up against the Lions for the first time.

BNZ Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson has named a strong side which includes nine All Blacks that have been named in Steve Hansen’s 33-man squad set to face the Lions in the test series.

The squad also includes full-back Israel Dagg who will be a familiar face to the Lions and a backline brimming with the exciting young Super Rugby talent.

Alun Wyn Jones will lead the Lions out in Christchurch on Saturday. 

Gatland has rung the changes again for the third game of the tour seeing the starting pack being replaced from the Blues defeat. England and Saracens pair Mako Vunipola and Jamie George come into the front row with Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong.

Alun Wyn Jones will lead the side and will partner up with George Kruis whilst Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien will be either side of Taulupe Faletau  in the back row.

The backline has also seen everyone replaced from the last game with a new halfback partnership in Conor Murray and Owen Farrell.

Worcester’s Ben Te’o and Jonathan Davies will pair up in midfield with the backline being made up of Liam Williams who was shown a yellow card against the Blues, George North and Stuart Hogg.


BNZ Crusaders | 15. Israel Dagg 14. Seta Tamanivalu, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. David Havili, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo’ung, 9. Bryn Hall; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Sam Whitelock (C), 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7. Matt Todd (VC), 8. Jordan Taufua

Replacements | 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Quinten Strange, 20. Jed Brown, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Tim Bateman

British and Irish Lions | 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. George North, 13.  Jonathan Davies, 12. Ben Te’o, 11. Liam Williams, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Alun Wyn Jones (C), 5. George Kruis, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements |16. Ken Owens, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Maro Itoje, 20. CJ Stander, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Johnny Sexton, 23. Anthony Watson


All Blacks reveal 33-man squad to face the British and Irish Lions

By Thomas Branston

Steve Hansen names his 33-man test squad ready for the challenge of the British and Irish Lions.

New Zealand Head Coach Steve Hansen has unveiled the 33-man All Blacks squad to take on The British & Irish Lions in the 2017 Test series that will be venue at Eden Park and Westpac Stadium.

Kieran Read will captain the side for the series and Hansen names two uncapped All Blacks that have impressed so far this season.

Hurricanes duo Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape have both been included and will look to stake a claim for a stating place during the Lions visit.

Barrett joins his two older brothers Beauden and Scott in the squad, this is the first time three brothers have been named in an All Blacks squad in their long illustrious history.

Both Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane have been included in the squad after their impressive performances against the British and Irish Lions yesterday at Eden Park.

New Zealand will face Samoa next week in a warm-up test ahead of the series and Steve Hansen’s men can expect a tough challenge against the south pacific Islanders.

New Zealand squad to face the British and Irish Lions in the 2017 test series:

Dane Coles (Wellington, 49)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, 15)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, 4)
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 58)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 46)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 90)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 24)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, 4)
Scott Barrett (Taranaki, 4)
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 60)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 26)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 84)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 40)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 74)
Kieran Read, captain (Counties Manukau, 97)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, 12)
Liam Squire (Tasman, 8)

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 25)
TJ Perenara (Wellington, 29)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 58)
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 49)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 47)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, 6)
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 26)
Ngani Laumape (Manawatu, uncapped)
Anton Leinert-Brown (Waikato, 9)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau, 33)
Jordie Barrett (Taranaki, uncapped)
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 61)
Rieko Ioane (Auckland, 2)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, 12)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 52)
Ben Smith (Otago, 60)

Five things we’ve learnt from the Blues’ win over the British and Irish Lions

By Thomas Branston


The British and Irish Lions suffered a 22-16 defeat at the hands of Super Rugby side the Blues on Wednesday and Warren Gatland’s men will need to take a long hard look at themselves in reflection of their shock defeat, but they cannot dwindle as they must prepare to face the Crusaders on Saturday.

1 | It’s clear from the performance against the Blues that goal kicking and an average set-piece will not be enough to win games against the Super Rugby sides. Although Leigh Halfpenny knocked through three successful attempts his efforts were in vein as Ihaia West scored a late try to seal the tie.

The Lions set-piece showed glimpses of improvement from their narrow win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and CJ Stander benefitted from the only try of the game for the Lions from the set-piece that led to a driving maul and the powerful back row crashed over.

2 | Southern hemisphere sides play expansive attacking rugby and are known for their successes by playing this way, apposed to the northern hemisphere playing hard-running, set-piece rugby.

Sonny Bill Williams and Ihaia West combined late on to score a sensational try which won the game for the Blues, the Lions defensively were not good enough and throughout the game were caught out by quick offloading rugby which allowed the Blues to breach gaps and gain valuable yards.

Sonny Bill Williams

3 | Sonny Bill Williams has still got it, his inspired performance was rewarded by the centre scoring a try just before half-time to give his side a 12-10 lead at the break. The New Zealand international played a phenomenal game against the Lions and his famous offload was in full motion with minutes to go as it was his quick thinking that allowed West through to score the winner.

Williams has been rewarded with his impressive performances by being named in the All Blacks 33-man squad to face the Lions. The 31-year-old has been included by Steve Hansen for the three tests at the end of the tour.

4 | Warren Gatland needs to look his game plan for the clash against the Crusaders as the Blues managed to shut down majority of the Lions play at he set-piece and in open field.

The Lions backline were far from impressive and looked flat throughout the encounter. The side in general lacked creativity, however their were positives to take from the clash. The forwards put in a good shift and allowed the backs to bring the ball forward. Unfortunately most of the packs work was undone by the lack of creativity.

5 | The British and Irish Lions lacked creativity when moving the ball forward during the game and were slow to get started against the Blues. It was difficult for them when the likes of Sonny Bill Williams being in form and running the show for the hosts.

The Lions were also guilty of ill-discipline throughout the game which enabled the Blues to play their style of rugby and they thrived upon it. The error count at the set-piece and generally on the park were poor from the Lions and this was another factor in the side suffering their first defeat of the 2017 tour.