Henry Speight will debut against the Barbarians. Photo: Roar
New Wallaby coach Michael Cheika dealt Australian rugby a royal flush with his first cards on the table to meet the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday.
Four selections stand out.
Naming the tireless Matt Hodgson as skipper for the opener is a masterstroke, recognising the huge season he had leading the Force.
Racing rake Dimitri Szarzewski takes on the Lyon defence. Photo: Skysports
Racing Metro scored two late tries to pick up a bonus point win at home to Lyon as they bounced back from last week’s loss at Clermont.
Elsewhere Oyonnax continued their fine home form with a comfortable win over Grenoble, while Bayonne comfortably saw off Brive.
Brian O’Driscoll on the British Lions tour last year. Photo: Planet Rugby
British and Irish Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll believes the 2017 tourists should play a fixture in the Pacific Islands en route to New Zealand.
O’Driscoll, who was part of four tours, said that the game should be played instead of one such as 2013’s against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.
“It’s probably more of a give than take for the Lions [to play in the Pacific Islands] but it would be great for the people there and it would probably take away from that commercial feel that the Lions are this commercial juggernaut,” he told The Times.
Former English skipper Steve Borthwick is new Japan lineout coach. Photo: Planet Rugby
Japan coach Eddie Jones is eager for his side to peak at next year’s World Cup after an impressive nine-game winning streak for the national team.
Victories over Canada and the USA have made for an outstanding month for the Brave Blossoms, with this weekend seeing them face Italy in Tokyo.
And Jones believes it will be a difficult task to make it ten in a row when they face the Azzurri, a side they have struggled against in the past.
“It will be our toughest game of the year,” the former Australia head coach told reporters.
“Japan’s record against Italy is not impressive so it’s a fantastic opportunity to change Japanese rugby history.”
Japan’s recent success risks becoming a double-edged sword for Jones, however, as World Cup rivals devote more time to analysing how to avoid being upset in England next year.
“Of course we really want to peak at the World Cup,” said Jones.