RWC friendlies: Teams & news for Boks v Pumas, England v Wales, France v Scotland

International
AAP
by AAP

A handful of pre-World Cup friendlies will be played this weekend around the globe, as teams finalise preparations for the tournament.

South Africa host Argentina, Wales play England again and France will be taking on Scotland.

SPRINGBOKS vs PUMAS, Loftus Versfeld, Sunday 1.05am (AEST).

Siya Kolisi will start as flanker for South Africa in their one-off Test against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld, eager to prove his fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.

Siya Kolisi will skipper the Springboks from a new position on Sunday morning. Photo: Getty ImagesSpringbok coach Rassie Erasmus named an entirely new selection for the match in Pretoria, the penultimate fixture for the side before they open their World Cup campaign against New Zealand in Yokohama on September 21.

Regular skipper Kolisi, who missed the whole of the Boks' victorious Rugby Championship campaign with a knee injury, is not expected to play the full 80 minutes and so the side will be captained by veteran hooker Schalk Brits.

"I've asked Siya to empty his tank and go as hard for as long as he can," Erasmus said.

"I've told him he might even come off in the first half. He has played less than 50 minutes of Currie Cup rugby in the last 12 weeks but I needed him to have a taste of Test rugby again before we leave for Japan."

Brits, one of a number of players vying for a place in the Boks' 31-man World Cup squad that will be announced on August 26, will make his first international start in 11 years and at the age of 38 will become the oldest first time captain of the side.

Uncapped hooker Scarra Ntubeni and prop Wilco Louw will start on the bench, while Cobus Reinach has been given a first test start since 2014 in the scrumhalf berth.

The Boks beat Argentina 46-13 in Salta last weekend to seal the Rugby Championship title.

Mario Ledesma speaks ahead of the Wallabies clash with the Pumas. Photo: Getty ImagesArgentina coach Mario Ledesma has rung the changes for the one-off test with South Africa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, seeking to find the right formula to halt an eight-game losing streak just a month out from the World Cup in Japan.

Argentina ended their Rugby Championship campaign with a humbling 46-13 loss to the Springboks in Salta last weekend and Ledesma has reacted by dropping a string of established players.

Prop Mayco Vivas will earn a first cap, while Felipe Ezcurra will make just his third international appearance in the scrumhalf berth, with the equally inexperienced Joaquin Diaz Bonilla alongside him at flyhalf.

There is also a first cap for inside centre Lucas Mensa, which sees Jeronimo de la Fuente switch to the number 13 jersey, while fullback Santiago Carreras could debut off the bench.

Two positional changes see Javier Ortega Desio move from flank to number eight, with his position on the side of the scrum taken by Marcos Kremer, who started at lock last weekend.

There is an all-new pairing in the second row with Tomas Lavanini and Guido Petti, while Julian Montoya takes over from the vastly experienced Agustin Creevy at hooker. Flanker Pablo Matera will lead the side in Pretoria, one of only five players who keep their place in the team.

TEAMS

South Africa: Warrick Gelant, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Dillyn Leyds, Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Vincent Koch, Schalk Brits (capt), Thomas du Toit.

Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Wilco Louw, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Frans Steyn.

Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Sebastian Cancelliere, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Lucas Mensa, Ramiro Moyano, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera (captain), Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Santiago Medrano, Julian Montoya, Mayco Vivas

Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Juan Figallo, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Gonzalo Bertanou, Ben Urdapilleta, Santiago Carreras

WALES vs ENGLAND, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Saturday 11.15pm (AEST)

Ruaridh McConnochie will win his first cap in England's World Cup warm-up against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, days after being included in Eddie Jones's 31-man squad.

The 27-year-old Bath wing, who was withdrawn from last Sunday's team due to injury, replaces Anthony Watson, and is one of three changes to the starting XV that played at Twickenham.

Maro Itoje comes into the second row for Charlie Ewels, with Courtney Lawes replacing the injured Tom Curry at blindside flanker and Lewis Ludlam moving to openside.

England beat Wales 33-19 last Sunday.

George Ford was again named as captain with fly-half Owen Farrell on the bench.

Scrum-half Willi Heinz, his place on the plane to Japan also secured, wins his second cap.

"Our selection strategy for our second game is similar to the first, so a bit of a mix-and-match approach," said former Wallabies mentor Jones.

"We are looking at different combinations and have a particular strategy for this game.

"The game is very much about ourselves preparing for the World Cup and we are respectful that we have got such strong opposition at their home ground. We are looking forward to it."

Wales also made three changes with Dan Biggar drafted in for the injured Gareth Anscombe, report AFP.

Jake Ball and James Davies, who will line-up alongside elder brother Jonathan Davies for the first time at international level, also come into the side that missed out on top spot in the world rankings with defeat at Twickenham.

Wales also lost a key player with Anscombe ruled out of the World Cup after suffering cruciate ligament damage last weekend.

"This weekend is another opportunity for us to take the field, test ourselves and continue our preparation for Japan," said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

"It is a little over five weeks until we kick off our campaign in Toyota against Georgia and it is important we are fully prepared and rugby-ready by then.

"We were disappointed to get the loss last weekend so it is important we step it up on Saturday and put in a big display in front of a packed Principality Stadium."

Wales team

Liam Williams (Saracens); George North (Ospreys), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues); Dan Biggar (Northampton), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), James Davies (Scarlets), Ross Moriarty (Dragons)

Replacements: Elliot Dee (Dragons, 19 Caps), Wyn Jones (Scarlets, 13 Caps), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues, 13 Caps), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets, 18 Caps), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues, 16 Caps), Aled Davies (Ospreys, 17 Caps), Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues, 1 Cap), Owen Watkin (Ospreys, 14 Caps)

England team

15-Elliot Daly, 14-Ruaridh McConnochie, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Piers Francis, 11-Joe Cokanasiga, 10-George Ford (capt), 9-Willi Heinz; 1-Ellis Genge, 2-Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Joe Launchbury, 5-Maro Itoje, 6-Courtney Lawes, 7-Lewis Ludlam, 8-Billy Vunipola.

Replacements:

16-Jamie George, 17-Joe Marler, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-George Kruis, 20-Jack Singleton, 21-Ben Youngs, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Manu Tuilagi.

FRANCE vs SCOTLAND, Allianz Riviera, Nice. Sunday, 4am (AEST)

Former Scotland captain John Barclay will make his first start for his country in almost a year-and-a-half when the Scots face France in a Rugby World Cup warm-up Test on Saturday, report AFP.

The 32-year-old Hong Kong-born flanker, who was Scotland's skipper until he ruptured his Achilles tendon in March 2018, is one of a trio of players to get a Test start after a long absence from the team.

John Barclay will captain Scotland this June. Photo: Getty ImagesFly-half Adam Hastings -- son of Scotland legend Gavin Hastings -- gets his first start since a victory over Argentina in 2018 and Ali Price will be his half-back partner.

Duncan Taylor will partner Huw Jones in the centres with the former making his first Test appearance in over two years due to a spate of injuries.

Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally retains the captaincy, despite the return of Barclay, having led them in their 38-38 draw with England in the Six Nations earlier this year which had seen the Scots storm back to lead 38-31 after trailing 31-0.

Head coach Gregor Townsend names his World Cup squad on September 3, which comes after a double header with France and a trip to play Georgia -- who will also play the Scots in Edinburgh on September 6.

"A huge amount of work has gone in throughout the past two months in order to deliver our best level of performance in the Rugby World Cup," said Townsend.

"These four Tests are a vital part of that process in terms of testing our systems and combinations but also in seeing which players put their best foot forward when it comes to selection for the final 31-man group going to Japan next month."

Fijian-born winger Alivereti Raka and backrower Francois Cros will make their debuts for France on Saturday in a World Cup warm-up match against Scotland.

Veteran Camille Lopez, 30, wins back his place at fly-half, preferred as starter to Romain Ntmack, who will sit on the bench for the match in Nice.

Ahead of the September 20-November 2 World Cup in Japan, French coach Jacques Brunel has been keeping a watchful eye on Clermont's gifted Raka, 24, who obtained French citizenship only last December.

"Everybody knows his qualities and his effectiveness," said Brunel.

"He has shown them for a while now... We are expecting him to be as effective for the France team as he is for his club,."

Gros, for his part, made a strong case for inclusion at flanker during a stunning past season performance with French champions Toulouse. He gets his chance with regular back rowers Wenceslas Lauret and Yacouba Camara unavailable through injury.

Toulon's Charles Ollivon also returns at flanker after two years to win his seventh cap after struggling with a shoulder injury.

Lopez, dropped after he criticised the coaching setup in February following the sides 44-8 defeat by England, is back in favour and will link up with Toulouse scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

Gros and Ollivon join Gregory Alldritt (five caps) at number eight who is preferred to Louis Picamoles in an experimental backrow combination playing together for the first time.

Paul Gabrillagues gets his first start in the second row since June last year while in the front row Camille Chat starts at hooker in place of Guilhem Guirado, the team captain who is injured along with prop Demba Bamba.

France play Scotland again in Edinburgh on August 24 and complete their three-match World Cup preparations against Italy on August 30 at the Stade de France.

France team

Maxime Medard; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Alivereti Raka; Camille Lopez, Antoine Dupont; Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt, Francois Cros; Sebastian Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues; Rabah Slimani; Camille Chat, Jefferson Poirot (cap)

Remplacements: Peato Mauvaka, Dany Priso, Emerick Setiano, Felix Lambey, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos

Scotland team

Stuart Hogg; Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Byron McGuigan; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, John Barclay; Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis; Simon Berghan, Stuart McInally (capt), Jamie Bhatti.

Replacements: George Turner, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Blair Kinghorn