No more Tri-Nations. From now on, these are the Rugby Championships, the Southern Hemisphere annual rugby union competition, as Argentina make their debut, hoping that the challenge of facing Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on an annual basis proves to be a positive thing instead of just constant losing and a demoralizing experience.
The All Blacks have won the tournament 10 times in the 16 years of its existence, and being the World Cup winners and usually the most talented side out there are probably the favorites. Australia will be second in line, being the defending champions and a team on the rise, despite the loss to Scotland during the early summer matches. South Africa are trying to get out of a funk, while Argentina will hope to get a first ever win against the All Blacks and/or the Springboks.
The tournament kicks off on August 18, with each team playing the other three twice, home & away. It’ll be concluded on October 6, with the All Blacks playing in South Africa and the Wallabies playing in Argentina.
Argentina – Los Pumas
The Pumas first appearance in the Rugby Championship is coming a few years after they peaked during the 2007 World Cup, now having somewhat of a generation change which hasn’t been going that well. They have a combined record of four wins, 38 defeats and two draws against the tri nations’ old guard, still without a win against the All Blacks and the Springboks. They came up with two wins in three matches during the June series, beating Scotland and splitting their meetings with France. Montpellier will be sending the most players to the squad with six, with only 7 players coming from Argentinian teams.
Hookers – Agustin Creevy (Montpellier), Eusebio Guinazo (Biarritz), Bruno Postiglioni (La Plata).
Props – Marcos Ayerza (Leicester), Maximiliano Bustos (Montpellier), Juan Figallo (Montpellier), Juan Pablo Orlandi (Racing Metro), Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais).
Locks – Patricio Albacete (Toulouse), Julio Farías Cabello (Tucaman), Manuel Carizza (Biarritz), Tomas Vallejos (Scarlets).
Flankers – Tomas de la Vega (C.U.B.A), Alvaro Galindo (Racing Metro), Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon), Tomás Leonardi (S.I.C).
Number 8’s – Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon), Leonardo Senatore (Toulon).
Scrum-Halfs – Tomás Cubelli (Belgrano Athletic), Agustín Figuerola (Brive), Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse).
Fly-Halfs – Santiago Fernández (Montpellier), Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Metro), Martín Landajo (C.A.S.I)
Centres – Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz), Rafael Carballo (Bordeaux), Martín Rodríguez (Stade Francais), Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux).
Wingers – Horacio Agulla (Bath), Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter), Juan Imhoff (Racing Metro), Manuel Montero (Pucara).
Fullbacks – Martín Bustos Moyano (Montpellier), Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier).
Australia – Wallabies
The Australians didn’t June matches too well, losing to Scotland in the opening match. That was followed by three very tough wins over Wales, meaning not all is lost and the World Cup semifinal wasn’t a fluke. They are the current title holders of the tournament, but a tri-nations on a world cup year is never too serious of an affair compared with the rest of the time. They have a combined record of 85 wins, 145 losses and 7 draws against the other three teams, beating South Africa and losing to New Zealand in the World Cup. They have four players set to make their debut. The 2011 Super Rugby champions Reds sent 12 players to the squad.
Hookers – Saia Fainga’a (Reds), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs).
Props – Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Benn Robinson (Waratahs), James Slipper (Reds).
Locks – Kane Douglas (Waratahs), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Rob Simmons (Reds), Sitaleki Timani (Waratahs).
Flankers – Dave Dennis (Waratahs), Liam Gill (Reds), Michael Hooper (Brumbies), David Pocock (Western Force), Jake Schatz (Reds).
Number 8’s – Scott Higginbotham (Reds), Radike Samo (Reds).
Scrum-Halfs – Will Genia (Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), Nic White (Brumbies).
Fly-Halfs – Berrick Barnes (Waratahs), Quade Cooper (Reds).
Centres – Anthony Fainga’a (Reds), Mike Harris (Reds), Rob Horne (Waratahs).
Wingers – Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Reds), Drew Mitchell (Waratahs).
Fullback – Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels).
New Zealand – All Blacks
The world champions have won this tournament 10 times out of 16 times, always coming in as the favorites except for very rare occasions. The All-Blacks romped vs Ireland during their June tour, beating the Irish three times in a combined score of 124-29, including a 60-0 win to close out the series. They have a record of 156 wins, 75 defeats and 9 draws against their rivals. They’ll be sending only one player set to make a debut. The Crusaders will be sending, as usual, the most players with 9.
Hookers – Andrew Hore (Highlanders), Keven Mealamu (Blues).
Props – Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Ben Franks (Crusaders), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Blues).
Locks – Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders).
Flankers – Sam Cane (Chiefs), Richie McCaw (Crusaders), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Adam Thomson (Highlanders).
Number 8’s – Kieran Read (Crusaders), Victor Vito (Highlanders).
Scrum-Halfs – Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Piri Weepu (Blues).
Fly-Halfs – Dan Carter (Cursaders), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs).
Centres – Tamati Ellison (Highlanders), Ma’a Nonu (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes).
Wingers – Hosea Gear (Highlanders), Cory Jane (Hurricanes), Julian Savea (Hurricaners).
Fullbacks – Israel Daag (Crusaders), Ben Smith (Highlanders).
South Africa – Springboks
The biggest disappointment of the 2011 World Cup, the Springboks beat England twice and drew with them once during the June series, hoping to have a much better run at the Southern Hemisphere tournament than in recent years, looking for their first title since 2009. Their record: 88 wins, 78 losses and 4 draws against their upcoming rivals. Five players will have a chance to make their first appearance for the Springboks, with the Bulls sending 11 players to the squad, more than any other team.
Hookers – Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs).
Props – Pat Cilliers (Lions), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Dean Greyling (Bulls), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).
Locks – Andries Bekker (Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Juandré Kruger (Bulls), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls).
Flankers – Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Keegan Daniel (Sharks), Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Jacques Potgieter (Bulls).
Number 8’s – Willem Alberts (Sharks), Pierre Spies (Bulls).
Scrum-Halfs – Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Jano Vermaak (Bulls).
Fly-Halfs – Elton Jantjies (Lions), Morné Steyn (Bulls).
Centres – Juan de Jongh (Stormers), Jean de Villiers (Stormers), JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), François Steyn (Sharks).
Wingers – Bryan Habana (Stormers), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks).
Fullbacks – Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Patrick Lambie (Sharks).