As 2012 winds down the international rugby world’s attention switches to what’s ahead for next year. For Europe it’s all about the Six Nations and the European Nations Cup. For the Southern Hemisphere it’s all about Super Rugby. For the areas that don’t fall in these categories, not only do they get to enjoy the best of both worlds, but they get to look forward to next summer’s internationals.
Many of the big tours are known for next summer. Australia will host the Lions, New Zealand gets France, England will travel to Argentina, Wales will head to Japan, Ireland to North America, and Scotland, Italy, Samoa, and South Africa will get together for a mini-tournament. What is not known is the full schedule for many of the Tier II and Tier III nations.
One of the likeliest scenarios is that a Tier II nation will accompany Wales, Ireland, and England on their tours. As it stands, Scotland, Samoa, Italy, and South Africa have a full schedule and France is set to play three tests against the All Blacks. This means that no Tier II nation will be accompanying them. However, Wales is only set to play two matches against Japan, England the same for Argentina. Ireland is scheduled to play three matches in North America with two against Canada and one against the United States. As such, it seems pretty certain that at least one Tier II nation will accompanying these teams. But which ones?
The Tier II and Tier III nations that will be available to tour this summer include Fiji, Tonga, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, and Namibia. Rumors have Georgia going with England to South America to play Argentina as well as Uruguay and Chile. That doesn’t mean that these countries won’t have the opportunity to play other matches, but with North America the likely destination it seems unrealistic to have Georgia to play three South American teams and then travel to face the U.S. and Canada. That means that Fiji, Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Tonga, and Namibia are the most likely to travel to North America.
There are two big factors in potentially figuring out who is going where this summer. First is the IRB Nations Cup. The tournament has been held in Romania the last several years and that seems like a likely scenario once again. It has also traditionally featured Italy ‘A’ and will probably do so again. Last year Uruguay, Russia, Portugal, and the Argentina Jaguars all participated. Uruguay is ruled out if the Georgia rumors are true and Russia just played Canada and the U.S. last fall, meaning that a trip to North America would be unlikely to happen. Portugal and Spain are also strong contenders. It’s within the realm of possibility that the Jaguars will also stay home and possibly get a match against England.
The other factor is an expanded Pacific Nations Cup. U.S.A. Rugby CEO Nigel Melville and his Canadian counter-part Mike Chu have both said that their countries plan on participating in an expanded version of the Pacific Nations Cup this upcoming summer. However, Samoa is occupied and Japan is hosting Wales. That means that the only available teams to travel to North America are Tonga and Fiji. Plans haven’t been mentioned for the island nation but no Tier I team is travelling to the Pacific Islands this season and with Samoa going to South Africa, North America or Japan makes good options.
If Fiji and Tonga were to play Canada and the U.S. it would have to revolve around Ireland. Currently Ireland is set to play the U.S. on June 8th and Canada on June 15th and 22nd. That means that either Fiji or Tonga would have to have an extended break as only one of the U.S. and Canada would be available on a given week. It could happen but might be seen as a waste of resources. Another possibility is one of those team’s joining Wales in Japan but that two match series seems like it will be the only two matches in Japan during the summer.
However, this doesn’t really make much of a Pacific Nations Cup. The U.S., Canada, Fiji, and Tonga would all play each other but that leaves Samoa and Japan missing out. Plus, the U.S. and Canada won’t play each other in June seeing as they have a home and away World Cup qualifying set in July. The Pacific Nations Cup will probably still happen but it not in the organized from that the European Nations Cup takes. Instead, it will likely feature a series of ad hoc matches spread out over several years. With Tier I nations scheduled to visit North American and Japan in the near future, it makes it difficult to schedule that many matches in a short time frame.
Out of all these scenarios, the only unaccounted for teams are the Iberian teams and Namibia. With only three countries seemingly headed for the IRB Nations Cup (Romania, Russia, and Italy ‘A’) it would not be out of the realm of possibility that this is where all three countries end up.
So to recap, using our best guessing and rumors, here is what next summer’s lineup could look like:
Australia: British and Irish Lions
South Africa: Scotland, Samoa, Italy
North America (U.S. and Canada): Ireland, Tonga, and Fiji
New Zealand: France
Argentina: England, Georgia (playing Uruguay and Chile as well)
IRB Nations Cup: Russia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Namibia, Italy ‘A’
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.