November’s Rugby World Cup Warm Up
The build up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup begins this November with the QBE Internationals, a series of test matches between the top teams in the sport.
Not only will these matches help coaches and public learn more about the teams and see who is making best progress, it will also help the stadiums prepare for the main event next year.
And even before the first match has kicked off there’s already been plenty of drama on and off the pitch. Here’s a look at the current state of the teams playing these ‘friendlies’ in November.
It seems that the heavy criticism Chris Robshaw receives as England captain is getting to him. In a recent interview with the Independent, he admitted that, while as a professional he wants to ignore the barrage of negative comments about his abilities, the comments do sometimes have an effect. He has let Joe Marler take over captaincy of the Harlequins in order to focus on his role in the 2015 World Cup.
What better time for England to reclaim the Webb Ellis trophy than during their tenure as tournament hosts? Jonny Wilkinson believes that the England team are in a ‘really good place’ ahead of the 2015 World Cup and has been invited along to watch training sessions. The team would welcome his input, and maybe Wilkinson’s advice can give them the extra edge they need to finally lift the cup again after being the runners up three times in a row.
Due to an injury sustained in training, hooker Ken Owens will miss all four of the team’s autumn tests. After damaging a disk in his neck, Owens requires surgery which will leave him needing 12 weeks of recovery. He will miss matches against the Wallabies, Fiji, the All Blacks, and South Africa in November.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has hit out at the premature drawing of the World Cup groups, believing it could have an adverse effect on the competition. Australia, England, and Wales – all of whom are ranked among the top six teams in the world – have been placed in the same group. The exit of a heavyweight team so early in the competition could make for weaker knockout stages, Gatland has warned.
Scotland have a long way to go if they want to succeed in 2015 according to new coach Vern Cotter. He admitted in a recent interview that the team ‘have a lot of work to do on all aspects’, and that it was ‘obvious’ Scotland is ‘not ready for the World Cup’.
His words followed Scotland’s latest defeat by South Africa, who won the match by a staggering 50 points. Cotter claims to be keeping an open mind when it comes to selecting his World Cup squad, stating that there are no automatic selections. He is giving all players a chance to prove themselves, and will decide based on individual merit rather than previous successes. This could see a rather fresh team entering the World Cup, and maybe that’s exactly what Scotland need to get back into their stride.
France will now take to the field with six uncapped players thanks to another squad member, Yannick Nyanga, having to take time off due to injury. 25 year old Virgil Bruni steps up to replace his team mate, who is recovering from a groin injury. France have got tests against Fiji, Australia and Argentina lined up in November. France is perhaps one of the teams with the most to prove, particularly head coach Philippe Saint-Andre, under whose direction the team have won only 11 out of 29 tests.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is having to find a new scrum half for his team ahead of the coming tests against several World Cup teams, including Australia and England. Tawera Kerr-Barlow is out for up to nine months following torn knee ligaments, which will require at least one operation. The injury was sustained during a match against South Africa, in which perhaps the team’s pride was injured too, with the All Blacks 22-match winning streak being brought to an end.
Kurtley Beale may not be part of the team’s 2015 World Cup squad according to rumours, following his latest dispute with Wallabies staff members on a recent flight. The ARU are currently investigating the incident, but Beale has apparently expressed his intention to leave the team regardless of the ruling over his conduct. He was already overlooked for a place in the team that played Argentina recently, so perhaps his world cup chances were already over?
Of course the big change for Ireland this time around is that they will have to take to the field without Brian O’Driscoll, following his retirement. However, with the Six Nations win under their belt, and plenty of big name players including the likes of Johnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell, there’s no doubt that Ireland will be entering the World Cup in a strong position.
They may have to do so with Sean O’Brien, however, who needs surgery on his infected shoulder – the same shoulder he had to have reconstructed last November following a match against New Zealand. He will have to miss Ireland’s test matches in November, which means he could find himself with only a few matches to prove himself fit enough to handle the World Cup.
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Fixtures for QBE Internationals
Below are the key fixtures for the matches ahead and as you can see there are some mouthwatering confrontations.
Saturday 8th November 2014
England v New Zealand
Wales v Australia
France v Fiji
Ireland v South Africa
Scotland v Argentina
Saturday 15th November 2014
France v Australia
Wales v Fiji
England v South Africa
Scotland v New Zealand
Sunday 16th November 2014
Ireland v Georgia
Saturday 22nd November 2014
France v Argentina
Ireland v Australia
Wales v New Zealand
England v Samoa
Scotland v Tonga
Saturday 29th November 2014
Wales v South Africa
England v Australia
For more details visit QBE Internationals
- I block out calls for a new England captain, says Chris Robshaw
- Jonny Wilkinson says England 'in a good place' for 2015 World Cup
- Neck injury rules out Ken Owens from Wales November Tests
- Rugby World Cup 2015: Wales head coach hits out at early draw
- Scotland are nowhere near ready for World Cup admits new rugby coach Vern Cotter
- Virgile Bruni replaces Yannick Nyanga in France's November Test squad
- New Zealand scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow out for up to nine months with knee injury
- O'Brien in World Cup fitness race