Super Saturday with International rugby at the forefront

Super Saturday with International rugby at the forefront
HIGASHIOSAKA, JAPAN - AUGUST 03: Japanese supporters cheer prior to the Pacific Nations Cup match between Japan and Tonga at Hanazono Rugby Staidum on August 3, 2019 in Higashiosaka, Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Knowing that the rugby-frequency is just about to wound up to full volume, fans welcome in another Super Saturday, with International rugby at the forefront.

The selection has been limited thus far. The Rugby Championship entertaining an eager appetite; especially in the all-important Rugby World Cup calendar year. That was complemented perfectly by the Pacific Nations Cup, to display a dozen International rugby sides. That would seem like a buffet to satisfy fans needs.

Not after this weekend, where the choices are almost doubled. Including domestic rugby, adding to that Women’s International rugby and the Summer fixtures in the Northern Hemisphere – it becomes more of a feast of sport, to the delight of fans from Japan (see main picture) to Dublin.

But this is only warming the enjoyment levels because, in September and October, RWC action will make this weekends Super Saturday seem like an entree before the main meal.

Super Saturday with International rugby at the forefront

Food inferences aside, the rugby union is ramping up in frequency, and in quality too. That comes from the grassroots, where the game originates. As it has, and will always do, so the Mitre 10 Cup is provincial representative rugby at its best.

With two games played so far, on Super Saturday it will be three-times as good. Matches from one part of the country to the other, with just one thing in common; each game will begin with a moments silence, in the utmost respect for Sir Brian Lochore. RIP

Mitre 10 Cup fixtures – 2:05pm; Tasman v Wellington | 4:35pm; Counties Manukau v Taranaki | 7:35pm; Waikato v Canterbury

Across the day, the attention on International rugby starts early. Carrying on from the Friday game that was won well by Tonga, over Canada. That was a highlight for the Tongan nation, and Saturday the focus is on back-to-back PNC fixtures from ANZ Stadium, Suva.

In fact, this year the top-of-the-table clash between the unbeaten Brave Blossoms and the USA Eagles is the best way to cap off an entertaining International rugby series. It has all the attention of fans in Asia, where the sport is on the verge of public acceptance – in football terms, as much as in the popular emoji culture.

Perfect warm-ups for the teams RWC preparations, as much as for fans across the Pacific. None more so than in Fiji, where the locals will be over the moon.

Pacific Nations Cup fixtures – 4:35pm; USA v Japan | 7:05pm; Fiji v Samoa

From that opening stanza, next up are a dazzling choice for any International rugby fan. Be they from the Southern or Northern hemispheres, each will have their quench thirst on this Super Saturday.

One championship that is in fact about to close, is the SANZAAR competition. The Rugby Championship has a reduced schedule for 2019, with the RWC just around the corner. So three matches to ‘settle the score’ is all that fans can sustain yet, it is still one dance too early before the big show.

That being said, three face-to-face games is an impressive selection. With the first two rounds complete, it now sees the two senior figures of New Zealand and South Africa ready to challenge for the title. One point apart on the table but just 14 points separated in for-and-against. Extremely closely balanced, and this final weekend will set-up for a fantastic opening Pool B clash in Japan.

Super Saturday continues in Perth, Australia

The double-header in the grand Optus Stadium, will see the Wallaroos v Black Ferns open the Saturday schedule. The Laurie O’Reilly Trophy is up for grabs, and like their menfolk, the Aussie women are determined to change recent history.

Women’s International rugby is just as important, so coverage will be as focused on this clash, as it will be when the Wallabies v All Blacks game is.

Once those early matches are completed, the Springboks look to establish whether they have the ability to hold down Los Pumas in Salta. On their home ground, the 32-19 result from last year, will be one that Rassie Erasmus must correct if the South African’s hope to build on the concentrated draw from a fortnight ago.

After this clash, one team will be able to raise the Championship trophy. Able to claim a sense of superiority from the Southern hemisphere. Then, with bleary eyes, concentration shifts northward.

The sleeping giants of the Six Nations, now awaken. If not entirely ‘warmed up’ due to post-season lay off, then well-conditioned from weeks on end of physical fitness sessions. Players can now run-out onto the pitch, ready to take on their neighbours in earnest. Contests that have been remarked on as ‘friendlies’ but, that are nothing but.

The final clash of Super Saturday is between Ireland and Italy. A match that has more benefit to the host, in rebuilding the form slump suffered by the Irish. Not discounting Italy, who will need to the opposition, to prepare for their upcoming schedule [Ireland, Russia, France, England].

A win to Ireland is expected, and it is the manner in their victory that will keep attention held, right to the conclusion of this International rugby Super Saturday.

Weekend fixtures list completed at Twickenham

Any time that England vs Wales, the rivals will place an importance on victory. Add to that, the long unbeaten sequence of games by Wales, could assist that nation in laying claim to the number one World Rugby ranking. A little point of the All Blacks having to lose is almost secondary – Welsh pride is based on form, and England is a recent victim.

In this Sunday afternoon fixture, another loss to the men from their South-West border would inhibit England’s attempt at springing any surprise in Japan. Eddie Jones is hoping to play his best team; although the cunning Australian head coach, is known for keeping his cards close to his chest. He might look to bluff Wales, who have selected a strong unit.

Wales team to face England in Twickenham clash

It all makes for interesting viewing. Recovering from their matches on Saturday, Pool C opponents Argentina, United States, and Tonga will watch closely from their team bases. France, who strangely are not appearing in this weekends schedule, will be focused on their own planning. Outcomes this weekend mean only so much. More to others, than to some.

Fans reactions to results will also vary. If the Wallabies can pull off the miraculous, then the rugby-world will be turned on its head. That may be overstating the obvious, but with the Rugby World Cup only weeks away, form and confidence will be taken in both positive and, in negative terms. Any upset teams now, will work even harder to be fully prepared by September 20.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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