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Rugby Championship: the four nations united again

After a 2020 edition disputed without the South African world champions, the flagship competition of the southern hemisphere find all its participants.

The 2021 edition of the Rugby Championship begins on Saturday, with no clear favorite between returning South Africans and New Zealanders who will play far from their bases. The competition therefore finally resumes its rights, with four teams to again justify its nickname of Four Nations. And yet, the craze is not yet at the rendezvous. Thus, this Saturday (9:05 am French) in Auckland, the opening shock between New Zealand and Australia is not enough to excite the supporters of the All Blacks, holders of the title.

Despite the tinsel of the poster, the stadium should only be half full. All the more surprising since this match will be the only home match for the Kiwis in this Southern Hemisphere Nations Championship, still shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Delta variant of the coronavirus, very contagious, is now progressing in Australia, so far largely spared because of its strict “zero Covid” strategy. New Zealand applying the same drastic policy, the Blacks could be gone for … five months away from their homes!

Five months away from New Zealand for the All Blacks?

They will indeed face Argentina (September 11 and 18) in Australia, and probably also South Africa (September 25, October 2), before taking off for a tour in the Northern Hemisphere which will end at the Stadium. from France after tests in Dublin and Rome. “We have a lot of options and one of them is to stay out of the border for a long time. This is the most likely option, unless things changeNew Zealand coach Ian Foster confirmed.

On the ground, however, this match will look like a “final” before the hour, according to the captain of the Blacks, Sam Whitelock. In case of victory on Saturday, the Kiwis will get a good start in the Championship and will also win the Bledisloe Cup, a prestigious trophy going to the winner of a confrontation between Blacks and Wallabies. Compared to the last test between the two opponents last Saturday, where the Blacks had won 33-25, Ian Foster made only one change in his starting XV: Will Jordan made his entry on the right wing, to compensate for the injury of Anton Lienert-Brown.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has made four changes, including the return of star winger Marika Koroibete, who was excluded from the first meeting for disciplinary reasons. “It is a real game of chess that is played there. This is where our experienced coaches and players are valuable, so I hope we can erase the weaknesses we saw in our game.Sam Whitelock said.

South Africa-Argentina behind closed doors

The South Africans, back after a missed 2020 edition because of the Covid, start at home against Argentina with the ambition to give air to their country in crisis. “The Springboks are much more than a rugby team: those who wear the green and gold jersey give hope to the people of our beautiful country in these difficult times», Commented Captain Siya Kolisi. The reigning world champions receive Argentina on Saturday (5:05 p.m.) in Gqeberha, behind closed doors, with the coronavirus still wreaking havoc in the country. After a series won against the British and Irish Lions (2 wins, 1 loss), coach Jacques Nienaber chose to put the executives to rest with 10 changes in his starting XV.

Facing them, the Argentines hope to show that they have changed dimension, in this tournament where they have only avoided last place once. It wasn’t last year. The Pumas finished last, but tied on points with the Wallabies and especially having beaten the All Blacks for the first time in their history.


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