2022 New Zealand All Blacks vs Ireland

SANZAAR Test Previews: July Series Go Into Final Weekend

SANZAAR Test Previews: July Series Go Into Final Weekend

A week after South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina all won in home series against Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland—the visitors fired back.

Jul 12, 2022 by Briar Napier
SANZAAR Test Previews: July Series Go Into Final Weekend

For the SANZAAR tests that took place July 2, the Southern Hemisphere dominated.

For the SANZAAR tests that took place this past weekend, it was the Northern Hemisphere that ruled the day.

Seven days after South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina all won their first matches of their separate home series against Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland (respectively), the visitors fired back with victories in all cases to notch up each series—and some nations got first-ever away victories against their opponents in the process.

The Rugby Championship is coming soon, and no nation within it wants to appear out-of-sorts heading into the competition. This increases the importance of each team’s series finale on Saturday—the stakes have been raised.

Here’s a look at where things stand for each unit ahead of their matches being streamed live on FloRugby.

New Zealand Vs. Ireland

Where: Sky Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand

The lowdown: Alarm bells don’t ring often for New Zealand as the All Blacks one of the world’s most consistently elite rugby nations. But after a 23-12 defeat to Ireland this past weekend in Dunedin, the sirens are screeching. 

It was a historic night for coach Andy Farrell’s Ireland as it defeated the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time ever, but a humiliating night for coach Ian Foster’s side as the country slipped to an all-time low of fourth in the most recent Men’s World Rugby Rankings. 

A double of tries from prop Andrew Porter and accurate kicking (5 for 5 on conversions and penalties) from captain Jonathan Sexton propelled Ireland to the massive result. All while Foster’s job security sank to a new low after his employment was already in danger from the All Blacks’ poor finish to 2021 (by their standards).

The third and final test of Ireland’s tour—which the All Blacks likely hoped would be an opportunity for some squad rotation—now becomes a must-win for New Zealand as it hasn’t lost two of three matches from a single series since 2009 against South Africa. 

Wellington has been far from friendly recently for the All Blacks—the home side hasn’t won there since it defeated France in June 2018, drawing two matches (to Australia and South Africa) and losing one (to South Africa) since then. 

Meanwhile, Ireland can catch New Zealand on its heels and possibly turn a monumental tour into an unforgettable one. Another win against the All Blacks would give it a serious shout to be the world’s No. 1-ranked team at this time next week.

Australia Vs. England

Where: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia

The lowdown: England needed a pick-me-up performance this past weekend after Australia snapped an eight-test losing streak against the English on July 2. Eddie Jones’ men certainly got it. 

The English visitors went on a 19-0 first-half run to start the game and used that push to comfortably skate away from Brisbane with a 25-17 win, evening up the series and setting up a tantalizing third test this weekend in Sydney, where the victor takes the tour. 

Jones, born in Australia and having coached his home nation from 2001-05, improved to 9-1 as England boss against the Wallabies with the victory, He’ll have to attempt his 10th win against Australia without lock Maro Itoje, who has already been ruled out of the final game of the tour after leaving Saturday’s match with a head injury. 

As for Australia, they are now 2-5 at home when going against the English, a brutal record that has contributed to the Wallabies current position of sixth in the World Rankings. The late bite that coach Dave Rennie’s side had in the first test in Perth—in which it scored three tries in the final 20 minutes to complete a comeback—was completely gone in the rubber match, failing to score after Noah Lolesio’s penalty kick in the 54th minute. 

Now, the Wallabies must come back in full force in Sydney, or the team risks losing a second consecutive visiting tour from England, after Jones swept the Wallabies on their own soil in 2016. 

Argentina Vs. Scotland

Where: Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, Santiago del Estero, Argentina

The lowdown: It was a party July 2 in Argentina after Los Pumas beat Scotland at home for the first time since 2008 and the first time overall since 2011, but Scotland responded from the slip-up in kind with a dominant 29-6 victory in the rematch in Salta. 

Questions on just how good Scotland could be without its top stars in Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell—who both weren’t selected for the tour to coach Gregor Townsend’s squad due to rest—were answered emphatically as the Scots pummeled the Argentines this past weekend. The Scottish team held Argentina try-less while scoring four of their own through Hamish Watson, Mark Bennett, Matt Fagerson and Sam Johnson. 

After a dream debut for recently-appointed Argentina boss Michael Cheika in the first test in San Salvador, Saturday’s result showed that there’s still work to be done for South America’s top side. Specifically, the team had a try from Guido Petti taken away due to a forward pass in the buildup, and Santiago Carreras missed out on a near-certain try due to a fumbling of the ball following pressure from Scotland’s defense. 

Being defeated in a home series wouldn’t be a good look for Los Pumas ahead of The Rugby Championship starting next month—where New Zealand, South Africa and Australia loom—so it’ll be to Cheika’s squad to get a rebound win in the tour finale in Santiago del Estero.

South Africa Vs. Wales

Where: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa

The lowdown: Well, well Wales. On the same day in which a fellow Home Nation, Ireland, beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time, Wales repeated the feat against the Springboks. The Welsh stunned the hosts in Bloemfontein with a defensive-heavy 13-12 win in which the defending world champions didn’t cross the try line. 

A week after Damian Willemse’s late penalty denied the visitors a draw in Pretoria, coach Wayne Pivac’s men took it a step further by pulling off the stunning upset, this time being responsible for late heroics through a try from wing Josh Adams in the 77th minute, and then a go-ahead conversion from substitute fly-half Gareth Anscombe two minutes later. 

South Africa was knocked off its perch as the world’s No. 1-ranked team with the loss (France now holds the top spot for the first time in its history). Coach Jacques Nienaber no doubt rueing his decision to field a heavily-rotated squad for the second game of the tour as Wales decisively took advantage. 

However, the tourists didn’t get through the test unscathed. Captain Dan Biggar was forced off with a shoulder injury and could be inactive for the series decider, as could wing Alex Cuthbert following an injury to his arm. 

But after nearly six decades and 12 matches of being winless in South Africa, Wales has the right to enjoy a historic achievement for now. Where it could bite them back, however, is if the Springboks—now looking for revenge—show the type of quality that made the unit the Rugby World Cup champions three years ago in Japan.