Friday, 25 July 2014

IRB announce Tier 2 November fixtures for 2014


The IRB have announced a complete list of fixtures involving the top 18 ranked sides in the world for the November Test window later this year. Some details are still yet confirmed.

08/11 –  Italy (Stadio Adriatico, Pescara)
14/11 –  Canada (Stade de la Rabine, Vannes)
22/11 –  England (Twickenham, London)

Having already beaten Italy 15-0 in June, Samoa will be looking to make it a home/away double with a win away from home in their first visit there for 5 years. They also have another big Tier 1 match against England which will be their first encounter for 4 years and a big occasion for the players in front of an 80,000 crowd at Twickenham.

In between those 2 matches they will play Canada, which will be there first meeting since the 42-12 thumping they delivered 2 years ago in Colwyn Bay which was one of the Samoan’s best performances. This time however, the game will be played yet again at a neutral venue but in Vannes in the Brittany region in North West France.

Given the dominant win over Italy last June, Samoa will be hoping to go into the big England game with a bit of winning streak. At the very least, the European tour should be better than last year which was injury ridden and had 3 losses.

08/11 – France (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
15/11 – Wales (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
21/11 – USA (Stade de la Rabine, Vannes)

Fiji have two tough matches to start with, first against France then Wales, both of whom they also met on their 2010 tour where a 16-16 draw with Wales was one of the very few positive results the side had over that 2008-2011 period. This time they are carrying better form and possess one of the most dangerous strike forces in world rugby out wide, however as ever continued set piece problems could make it difficult for them to shine in winter conditions.

The final match is against the USA, at the neutral venue of Vannes, where the scrum will likely not be tested nearly as much and they will have a better chance to finish the tour with a flourish as they did last year in Romania.

One notable thing about the schedule is the fixture with Wales. Again just like the 2010 game, Fiji will play them a year later in the World Cup too.

08/11 – Georgia (tbc, Georgia)
15/11 – USA (neutral European venue tbc)
22/11 –  Scotland (Murrayfield, Edinburgh)

Tonga have had an average 12 months by their standards, they were simply not at their best last November and they were not able to bring a 100% team to the PNC friendlies last June. They will hope for an upturn in form in their opener away to Georgia, which is an interesting clash between sides that have not met for 15 years, their last meetings being a 2 legged World Cup playoff in 1999.

After that Mana Otai's side head to play the USA an undetermined neutral European venue, before travelling to Scotland who they beat in their last meeting in 2012 in a close match with a sterling defensive effort by the team.

01/11 – Maori All Blacks (Noevir Stadium, Kobe)
08/11 – Maori All Blacks (Chichibunomiya Stadium, Tokyo)
15/11 – Romania (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)
22/11 – Georgia (tbc, Georgia)

Japan will first play non-Test match games with a 2 match series with the Maori All Blacks. Although representative sides under banners such as "Saxons", "Emerging" or "Jaguars" haven't proved popular in the past as touring sides to Tier 2 nations, the Maori side under the "All Blacks" banner are an exception and had a successful tour ticket sales wise in North America last year.

The Maori All Blacks are also on a long unbeaten run against international opposition including wins over 6 Nations opposition, so should give some hard tests for Japan although they didn't look invincible particularly against the USA last year.

Following those home games, Japan will tour Eastern Europe again like they did in 2012 which will be a particularly good test for their scrum. The Georgia game will be particularly interesting given how tight it was last time and the improvements both sides have made since then.

02/11 – RFU Championship XV (tbc, England)
08/11 – Namibia (neutral  European venue tbc)
14/11 – Samoa (Stade de la Rabine, Vannes)
22/11 – Romania (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)

Canada start their tour with a non release window game against an RFU Championship XV, that will likely be a weakened Canada team where the depth is tested. Possibly the next game would allow some leeway for a weaker side to be experimented as well as Canada then are Namibia's first fixture against a top 18 side since the last World Cup, the game will be played at a neutral venue somewhere in Europe.

It's good for Namibia to be to get exposure against a better side though and that's exactly why they are likely playing each other. The game will be the first between the sides since the 1999 World Cup, which Canada ran away with 72-11 in front an excellent 28,000 sell out crowd in Toulouse. The game this time will also be in front of a neutral crowd, but it’s unlikely to be nearly as good as that with Canada playing in some bleak atmospheres in their 2012 tour for example.

After the Namibia game, Canada will have two tougher matches with Samoa again at a neutral venue, an opponent and match it would really be great for local Canadians to see for themselves but unfortunately travel makes that not possible. Then they go to Romania who are also a RWC opponent next year, where they will look to avenge the last minute defeat last year in a game they should have really closed out. Anything less than 2 wins will be a disappointment for Canada following a frustrating June.

01/11 – New Zealand (Soldier Field, Chicago)
08/11 – Romania (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)
15/11 – Tonga (neutral European venue tbc)
21/11 – Fiji (Stade de la Rabine, Vannes)

USA will open up their November campaign with a historic match in front of possibly 60,000 at Soldier Field to watch the All Blacks. However we are still yet to know much progress on an agreement between USA Rugby and PRL for player release for an out of window game. An agreement with French sides meanwhile could mean negotiating about releasing early back in return, which could see a weakened team play Fiji. So the All Blacks game does raise some unanswered questions about how the November series will pan out.

After the All Blacks game, the Eagles will travel to Romania where they won 34-3 last time in 2012 although the form book would suggest it would be closer this time. Then there are two Pacific Island tests with Tonga and Fiji at neutral venues, neither of which the USA have an impressive record against with 8 straight defeats against them. If the USA can get 2 wins then it will have been a very good tour for them.

08/11 – Tonga (tbc, Georgia)
16/11 – Ireland (Aviva Stadium, Dublin)
23/11 – Japan (tbc, Georgia)

Georgia only have 2 home games this year as they are instead travelling to face Ireland for the first time since that World Cup match back in 2007. However the Irish are a highly efficient unit under coach Joe Schmidt and 6 Nations champions and playing in their home ground, so it will be a tough match but a challenge that the Lelos should relish as their first test outside of the World Cup against a 6 Nations side for 11 years.

Outside of that game, Georgia will host World Cup opponents Tonga and have a rematch with Japan. They game against Tonga will be a look ahead to try and spot some clues about how the crucial World Cup encounter might go and an interesting clash of styles, the Japan game will give Georgia a chance to gain redemption after letting a 9 point lead slip away twice in 2012 to lose by a last minute drop goal.

Following a successful ENC campaign, Georgia will be hoping to win at least one of the games in front of their home crowd even if the IRB ranking suggest otherwise, where the crowd will be however is still to be confirmed but the games will most likely be at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium or Dinamo Arena.

08/11 – USA (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)
15/11 – Japan (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)
22/11 – Canada (Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest)

Romania have 3 PNC sides travelling to Bucharest for the second year running, all 3 games are winnable but also the Oaks will be underdogs in all 3. The best chance of a win will possibly be the opener against the USA, where they will look to press home their advantage in the tight after seeing the problems Uruguay caused them in doing so.

Japan will probably be the hardest game, Romania were by no means beaten easily in 2012 but a lot of what helped them stay close was the scrum, an area Japan are much improved.

The only repeat match from last year is the game against Canada, which Romania won last time with Florin Vlaicu nervelessly getting his second last minute penalty in consecutive weeks.

Other sides:
Much of the fixtures this year involve the top 18 and those who have already qualified for World Cup. Others such as Russia and Uruguay are left out as they will likely be occupied by a crucial playoff for the final World Cup spot over the course of the month.

As for eliminated sides, it is possible that the lower ranked ENC sides Spain or Portugal may end up facing Namibia to fill out their tour, Kenya have been rumoured to be facing Portugal but that is still unconfirmed, whilst Zimbabwe have also made an enquiry to the IRB about playing tests in Europe should they lose to Russia next month.

All of that as yet very much speculation and not confirmed at the minute, and will depend on the first lot of Repechage playoff results in August.


  1. John Duncan Sherlock9/8/14 2:31 pm

    I like the fixture against Canada, but would have prefered Italy with view to next year.

    Does anybody know what has happened to Tonita, Sirbe and Pungea (all of whom I would be taking to RWC15)? Tonita was rumoured to be going to USAP to help them in their hour of need, but he is listed neither there nor at Carcasonne. Has injury (finally) taken its toll? Tarbes reported releasing Sirbe (to be replaced by another Romanian), citing absence due to internationals and Pungea (to my knowledge) was having trials at Lyon, but doesn`t appear to have made the cut (yet). It would be a (massive) loss if these players were not available in the coming year!
    What about Wiringi and Kinikinilau? Have they achieved resident status and, if so, are they considerng playing for Romania? Romania lacks talent at stand-off and centre, so I would expect them to be a much-needed bonus.

  2. Sirbe plays in Federale 1 (Blagnac), Pungea is indeed at LOU. Tonita seems to be disappeared...
    Wiringi becomes eligile in March next year, but hes currently injured. Kinikinilau will fulfill soon the criteria (November afaik). They are both considering playing for Romania.