Friday, October 30, 2009

England and Wales Preparation for Autumn Internationals rugby test

As the 2009-10 season starts to Autumn Internationals, the home nations are preparing for the annual visit of their southern hemisphere counterparts. The autumn internationals are now firmly entrenched in the sporting calendar and have produced some fantastic rugby over the past few years. Corporate hospitality group takes a look at how the home nations will fare during November’s festival of rugby.


England’s preparation for their test matches against Australia, Argentina and the New Zealand have been dominated by their injury crisis. Martin Johnson has over 20 of his first choice squad unavailable through injury, including his entire first choice front row. In response to the injury crisis, Johnson has called up three new caps in Courtney Lawes, David Barnes and Richard Blaze.

Of the new faces in the squad, the one that stands out is Northampton youngster Courtney Lawes. With only 20 1st XV games under his belt, Lawes has been described as a gamble selection, but Lawes aggressive performances have turned heads in the Guinness Premiership.

Lawes will bring a youthful arrogance and an enforcer-like attitude to the England squad, something which they have lacked since Johnson himself quit international rugby. Lawes may not be able to command a place in the international side straight away, but this early exposure to the set up will certainly benefit him for his future years.

Away from the injury crisis, Johnson will realise that his honeymoon period is over. Having been in charge of the national side for 18 months, Johnson will know that the bosses at HQ will now start to expect results and for the England team to rise up through the IRB world rankings.

Last season was a mixed bag for Johnson. A brilliant performance against France was coupled with some average performances against South Africa and Argentina. Johnson will know that this year’s international season needs to start well and that he will be expected to win a minimum of 2 of their 3 November matches. That would probably mean a victory over either New Zealand or Australia.

So how will England perform? Most supporters will be expecting a victory over the Pumas, while Australia and New Zealand maybe be a trickier prospect. There are reasons for optimism though. Australia and New Zealand are not the same teams they were 12 months ago. Australia looked woeful in the Tri-Nations, while the All Blacks have missed some key players recently. Another plus for England is that a revived and in form Jonny Wilkinson is back in the international fold. With Wilkinson likely to be surrounded by some new faces in the England side, his experience and form could be the key for Martin Johnson’s men.

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Wales come off the back of a disappointing 2009 season for them. Having raised the bar the previous season, Warren Gatland’s men would have been unhappy to have missed out on Six Nations glory, despite being tipped by many to retain the title.

The November tests see Wales face Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in Autumn Internationals with Warren Gatland, like Martin Johnson missing a few of his key players.

Whereas Johnson is struggling with his front row, Gatland’s headaches are based at scrum half. Lions star, Mike Phillips is set to miss all of the test matches and possibly the Six Nations while he undergoes surgery to repair his damaged ankle ligaments. Phillips obvious replacement is the star of the 2005 Lions, Dwayne Peel, however due to contract issues with Peel’s club, Sale Sharks, Peel looks unlikely to be made available for the first game against New Zealand at least, leaving Gatland forced into selecting 3rd choice Gareth Cooper.

Elsewhere, Gatland has headaches of a different kind. In James Hook, Stephen Jones and Dan Biggar, Wales boast three of the best fly halves in Europe. Although Jones has been unfairly labelled as a conservative fly half throughout his career, his experience looks set to keep him in the starting XV, probably with Hook at inside centre, leaving Biggar to come off the bench and add a spark, if required.

With Wales having beaten Australia last year, Gatland will be looking to go one further and defeat the All Blacks. Argentina will be a tough match, especially up front, but one that Wales should win, while Wales v Samoa matches will always be treated by the Welsh as grudge matches after the Islanders famous victories in the 1991 and 1999 world cups.

Book your hospitality at Autumn Internationals Hospitality

More Rugby Information at Corporate Hospitality Group


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