Four talking points ahead of a super Saturday of Test rugby with eight of world's Top 10 nations on show

Alex Broun 19:12 08/06/2018
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Rassie Erasmus. with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi

Les Bleus hoping for master stroke, Pocock to spur Wallabies, Jaguares become Pumas and Siya Kolisi brings in a new chapter for the Springboks.

Here are out talking points for the first weekend of June internationals:

France hoping for ‘masterstroke’ against All Blacks

Underdogs France are looking to pull off a trademark “masterstroke” against the All Blacks when they open their three-Test series on Saturday, captain Mathieu Bastareaud said.

France memorably upset New Zealand at the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups but they haven’t arrived in the best of shape, after finishing fourth in this year’s Six Nations.

Bastareaud, who has a chequered record in New Zealand after falsely claiming he was assaulted in Wellington in 2009, described the All Blacks as “a mythical team and jersey”.

But despite the overwhelming odds facing them, he said France were still eyeing their first win in nine years against the triple world champions.

France were the last team to overcome New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park, way back in 1994, since when the hosts are unbeaten in 40 games — including the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, when they edged Les Bleus 8-7.

“We are here because we think we can challenge them. A win would be a masterstroke,” said Bastareaud, who said he preferred to leave his personal history in New Zealand aside.

Pocock return to spur Wallabies against Irish: Cheika

Australia coach Michael Cheika says he is looking forward to the return of David Pocock to spur the Wallabies to victory over Six Nations champions Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday.

The influential Pocock — playing his first international since taking a Rugby sabbatical last year — will play in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker, with skipper Michael Hooper preferred at openside.

The second-ranked Irish are on the crest of a wave, having won their last 12 internationals and this year’s Six Nations tournament, but have not won in Australia since 1979.

Cheika, who coached Irish province Leinster to their first-ever European Cup in 2009, said Pocock’s leadership was invaluable but warned that breakdown turnovers would be at a premium against the well-organised Irish.

“We all talk about Poey’s (Pocock’s) on the ground work but that’s going to be very hard against Ireland,” he said.

Jaguares become Pumas as Argentina crave success

The Jaguares became Pumas this week and Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade hopes they can take stunning Super Rugby form into two Tests against Wales, the first on Saturday.

Jaguares, effectively the national team, compete out of Buenos Aires in the annual southern hemisphere franchise competition and their recent form has been a revelation.

After only two victories in their first seven matches, they have won six in a row, including a shock triumph in New Zealand over two-time Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs.

When Super Rugby took a break to accommodate Test Rugby, Hourcade called up all 23 Jaguares who helped defeat the Sharks to the national squad, known as the Pumas.

Hourcade is desperate for success after two horror international seasons following an impressive fourth place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

After 127 years, Kolisi opens new Springboks chapter

After 127 years, 478 Tests and 60 white captains, Siyamthanda ‘Siya’ Kolisi will open a new chapter in South African Rugby on Saturday when he leads the team against England.

The 26-year-old captain and flanker of the Stormers is set to be the first black Test skipper of a traditional world Rugby powerhouse.

Injuries to captain Warren Whiteley and stand-in Eben Etzebeth created a leadership void, and new coach Rassie Erasmus opted for soft-spoken, media-shy Kolisi in a three-player contest.

“I like him,” says the coach. “He is quiet, he is humble, he is nice and physical. I am really excited about what Siya can offer to us.”

Erasmus insists Kolisi was not chosen because of his colour amid constant government pressure to deliver a national Rugby team that better reflects a population that is 92 percent black.

“I have always known Siya as a great player and a great leader — the fact that he will become the first black captain of the Springboks is definitely just a bonus.”

An agreement has been struck between the national Rugby body and the government that 50 percent of the team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will be black.

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