Tuesday, May 20, 2014

International Rugby: Ireland and Scotland name squads for Americas

Photo RTE
Ireland last played in Argentina in 2007
Both Ireland and Scotland are to be playing test matches in the Americas next month. Ireland will play two tests against Argentina while Scotland will face both the USA and Canada in North American before playing a test in Argentina and finishing the four test tour by playing a test against the Springboks in South Africa. The touring squads of both Celtic nations have been named as both are eyeing away wins in what is to be the final tour for both ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015. 


Ireland will be playing in Argentina for the first time since 2007. Similar to 2007 Irish rugby is on a high. Ireland visited Rosario and Buenos Aires after having defeated England by a record margin at Croke park in the Six Nations. As it was Rugby World Cup year Ireland sent an under strength squad and Argentina was also not able to play a number of players with eight contracted to Stade Français or Clermont Auvergne who played in that years Top 14 final during the tour. 

Argentina won both tests to retain the notable record of never having lost against Ireland at home. The competitiveness of the two countries has been so strong that neither side has managed to ever win an away test match. Moreover their clashes at Rugby World Cups is also curious. Argentina eliminated Ireland from Rugby World Cups 1999 and 2007 while Ireland defeated Argentina from Rugby World Cup 2003. Two of the three matches were  decided by one score or less with Ireland winning 16-15 in Adelaide in 2003. 

In search of a history making win in Argentina the 2014 Six Nations champions have a virtual full-strength squad set to leave for Buenos Aires on June 1, the day after the RaboDirect Pro 12 final between Leinster and the Glasgow Warriors in Dublin. The thirty man squad named by Joe Schmid is mising just four players - Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy, Gordon D'Arcy and Tommy Bowe. It is otherwise at full strength which is in contrast to the squad ye to be named by host nation. 

Schmidt has opted to rest O'Brien, Healy, D'Arcy and Bowe and has called up James Cronin, Robbie Diack, Rob Herring and Kieran Marmion who are all uncapped. They are lesser known names amongst a squad packed with players to have impressed this season for their provinces and for Ireland in the strong performances in November and in the Six Nations. 

The team will be led by thirty-four year old Paul O'Connell who is set to earn his 100th cap in Resistencia. As such Jamie Heaslip will not be the captain at the World Cup despite having been groomed to lead the island nation. Ireland will play in north-east and north-west Argentina. The first test will be in Chaco province with Resistencia hosting the test while the rugby stronghold of Tucumán wll host the return match. Both are potential cities for hosting Rugby World Cup matches. Scotland, meanwhile, is to play its test in another - Córdoba. 

Scotland´s June tour will see the European nation playing twice as many tests as Ireland and the team is duly preparing for the tour with this in mind. Scotland's new headcoach Vern Cotter has named two squads for the tour - one to travel to North America and one to travel to Argentina and South Africa. The squad is missing four players to injury as Jack Cuthbert, Ross Rennie, Matt Scott and Ryan Wilson will not tour. 

The north / south split will see Scotland pushed to the limit. Cotter has not opted to have his strongest players all going south but, to the contrary, has divided them up with some going to North America and others to Argentina and South Africa. A total of nine will be in both squads and therefore free to play all four tests if selected. 

The players Cotter has selected for both destinations are Kevin Bryce, Geoff Cross, Alex Dunbar, Grant Gilchrist,  Moray Low, Pat MacArthur, Sean Maitland, Gordon Reid and Stuart Hogg. In addition to the permanent squad members other notable players set to face the USA and Canada include Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown, Richie Gray, Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Taylor and Tim Visser. All are likely to play at Rugby World Cup 2015, a tournament in which Scotland will meet the USA.  

In being named in the southern squad Tommy Seymour will miss out on the opportunity of playing a test match in his homeland. Seymour was born in the USA but plays for Scotland due to his mother being born in Glasgow.  He is to be joined by playes of note in the southern squad including David Denton, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley and Ruardidh Jackson. 

Scotland last visited Argentina in 2010 and returned home as the first ever Scottish team to have won a test series in the country. Argentina played poorly in the tests in Tucumán and Mar del Plata but got revenge by defeating Scotland in Wellington at Rugby World Cup 2011. With Argentina set to receive a squad missing some leading players it will have a greater chance at defeating the Scots than it will the Irish.

Both the USA and Canada are looking for strong attendances to continue the post 2011 trend that has seen both record record breaking crowds for rugby matches. Strong crowds were on hand in Houston for tests against Italy and Ireland in June 2012 and June 2013 while Philadelphia was full for a non-international against the Maori All Blacks last November. Canadians also responded well against the same opposition during the same periods for matches in Toronto. 

History could be made with both Canada and the USA being capable of defeating Cotter's Scottish team. Both will need to be at the top of their game if they are to topple Scotland but they are, nonetheless, capable of doing so. For the USA an impressive home performance would significantly assit in the promotion of the home international against New Zealand in Chicago this coming November. 

Ireland
Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster), James Cronin (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Marty Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster) and Damian Varley (Munster)

Backs: Darren Cave (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Felix Jones (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Racing Metro), Andrew Trimble (Ulster) and Simon Zebo (Munster)

Scotland v USA and Canada
Forwards: Alex Allan (Glasgow), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Geoff Cross (London Irish), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Moray Low (Exeter), Pat MacArthur (Glasgow), Gordon Reid (Glasgow), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) and Kyle Traynor (Bristol)

Backs: Chris Cusiter (Sale), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Max Evans (Castres), Tom Heathcote (Bath), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Sean Maitland (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens) and Tim Visser (Edinburgh)

Scotland v Argentina and South Africa
Forwards: Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Geoff Cross (London Irish), David Denton (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Moray Low (Exeter), Pat MacArthur (Glasgow), Gordon Reid (Glasgow), Tim Swinson (Glasgow) and Jon Welsh (Glasgow)

Backs: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh), Grayson Hart (Edinburgh), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Peter Horne (Glasgow), Ruaridh Jackson (London Wasps), Sean Maitland (Glasgow), Peter Murchie (Glasgow), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow) and Duncan Weir (Glasgow)

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