HomeSportsEngland, Ireland and Wales summer tours live on Sky: How New Zealand,...

England, Ireland and Wales summer tours live on Sky: How New Zealand, South Africa and Australia are shaping up


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It’s not so long ago when summer tours would fill northern hemisphere teams and their supporters with dread.

More often than not, a trip south to face Australia, New Zealand and South Africa resulted in one-sided home victories, with visiting players left to mull over a summer shellacking as they headed on holiday.

Not any more. England, Ireland and Wales have travelled across the equator with realistic hopes of victory.

After nine months of inactivity, the Springboks returned to action with victory over Wales at Twickenham, but how are they and their fellow hosts faring ahead of what promises to be a trio of scintillating series, live on Sky Sports?

New Zealand

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Scott Robertson is preparing for his first game as New Zealand head coach

After a period of instability, a new era for New Zealand rugby begins in Dunedin on Saturday night. The old guard have departed and there’s a new head coach in situ.

The breakdancing Scott Robertson has succeeded Ian Foster and is expected to hit the ground running despite being without stalwarts Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, who have all retired. Star fly-half Richie Mo’unga and former skipper Sam Cane are also unavailable.

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Robertson celebrated his side’s 2022 Super Rugby title win by showing off some of his best dance moves

Robertson won seven successive Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders and, notwithstanding a short stint with Brazil, is the first All Blacks coach without any coaching experience at senior international level.

All change for All Blacks

Just 12 players remain from the New Zealand squad that lost narrowly to South Africa in last year’s Rugby World Cup final.

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All Blacks flanker Samipeni Finau produced some massive hits in Super Rugby Pacific this season, including this one on on Waratahs fly-half Tane Edmed

The 49-year-old has already made some big calls, handing the captaincy to Scott Barrett – a key cog in his Crusaders teams – ahead of the talismanic Ardie Savea, while Beauden Barrett must settle for a place on the bench for Saturday’s first Test against England after Stephen Perofeta was named at full-back.

After the tumultuous reign of Foster, who had the lowest winning percentage of an All Blacks coach in the professional era [70 per cent], New Zealand fans will be demanding instant results.

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Miles Harrison looks back to 2003, the last time England beat the All Blacks in New Zealand

That’s a tough ask in their first game of 2024, against an England side who registered a big win over Japan on their way down south, but Robertson will quickly discover there is no bedding-in period when it comes to being an All Blacks coach.


Australia head coach Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt renews his rivalry with Warren Gatland on Saturday

Joe Schmidt is tasked with repairing Australian rugby following the wreckage left by Eddie Jones and his catastrophic 10-month reign.

Schmidt is a serial winner, having achieved unheralded success with both Leinster and Ireland before helping New Zealand rediscover their mojo, but transforming the Wallabies’ fortunes represents his biggest challenge.

Rugby is a sport in crisis in Australia. The Rebels were axed from Super Rugby Pacific after amassing debts of over £12m, while Rugby Australia are reported to be almost £50m in the red. Talented youngsters Carter Gordon and Mark Nawaqanitawase have defected to rugby league, while others have moved overseas and closed the door on international selection.

Welsh woe for Wallabies

Australia have lost four of their last five matches against Wales, including defeats in the pool stages of the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cups.

However, you have to go back to 1969 for Wales’ last win over the Wallabies on Australian soil.

The Melbourne Rebels captain Rob Leota gathers his team-mates together in a team huddle after their last ever game against the Hurricanes
The Rebels reached the Super Rugby play-offs but were then axed from the competition

With a Lions tour and home World Cup on the horizon, Australia hope the recovery process will begin in Sydney on Saturday.

Australia have a history of running rugby but that may be shelved as Schmidt goes back to basics, focusing on the set-piece and breakdown accuracy that his Ireland team were renowned for.

Rugby Union internationals live on Sky Sports this Saturday

Australia were battered 40-6 by Wales during last year’s Rugby World Cup pool stages but Warren Gatland’s side have been in a downward spiral since, collecting a Six Nations wooden spoon and suffering six defeats from as many games in 2024.

Schmidt and Gatland used to battle it out for Six Nations silverware. Now they are trying to pick their respective sides up off the canvas. This is an opportunity Schmidt and Australia cannot afford to pass up.

South Africa

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South Africa produced a dominant second-half performance to beat Wales at Twickenham last month

The Springboks have been getting personal ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the top two teams in the world.

South Africa are back-to-back world champions with a Lions series win sandwiched in between, but they have lost their last three meetings with Ireland. And that clearly rankles.

Eben Etzebeth called Ireland’s players “arrogant” after they beat South Africa during the pool stages of last year’s World Cup. Damian de Allende said the two-Test series will be “almost like a war”. Rassie Erasmus stirred the pot even further by predicting Ireland’s line-up on social media – 13 out of 15 wasn’t a bad effort.

Away from hyping up what promises to be an epic series, Erasmus has selected 12 starters from the World Cup final win over New Zealand.

A settled line-up on the field, but there have been some major changes off it. Coaches Jacques Nienaber and Felix Jones departed for Leinster and England respectively after the World Cup, with Erasmus restored to the head coach role.

Jerry Flannery, a Grand Slam winner with Ireland in 2009 who previously worked with Erasmus at Munster, has taken over defensive duties while Tony Brown is running the attack. Brown transformed Japan’s backline as they reached the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals for the first time and helped the Highlanders win their sole Super Rugby title in 2015.

Springboks have score to settle

Ireland have beaten South Africa in their last three meetings including a 13-8 victory in the pool stages of last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Their only win over the Boks in South Africa came in the opening game of their 2016 series, which they lost 2-1.

Set-piece is a traditional strength for South Africa and they are unlikely to veer away from that. They dismantled Ireland’s lineout during that epic match in Paris last October, while the Bulls’ demolition of Leinster’s all-Irish pack at scrum time during last month’s United Rugby Championship semi-final will have the Boks forwards licking their lips.

Brown’s arrival could add some wrinkles to their attacking game, however, and get the most out of a backline brimming with explosive pace and power.

Ireland’s last two wins over South Africa were by three and five points, and on both occasions South Africa missed crucial kicks at goal. With Handre Pollard back in the No 10 shirt, a repeat appears unlikely.

The iconic Loftus Versfeld will be a cauldron of noise for the Boks’ first home game as double world champions. There is a famous sign in the tunnel that reads: ‘Altitude. 1350m. It matters.’ The Boks mean business.

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