Well, this Saturday sees the start of the first-ever Rugby Championship taking place. The Championship is a revamped Tri-Nations, with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now joined by Argentina in the tournament.
The 4 countries will play each other, in both home and away fixtures. The tournament starts on August 18th, and finishes on October 6th, with 12 games in all being played. First games are New Zealand versus Australia, and South Africa versus Argentina.
The first Tri-Nations was in 1996, and has been going since then. There was talk of Argentina joining the tournament, ever since their great performance in the 2007 World Cup, but due to scheduling conflicts they’ve only been able to enter this year.
Unfortunately, Argentina’s form has dipped somewhat in the last few year’s, though they did do very well against New Zealand in the last World Cup quarter-final. Argentina’s record against the SANZAR nations isn’t that bad, overall.
Argentina have played New Zealand 14 times and lost 13 with one draw (which is actually a better record then we have). Their draw game came way back in 1985. Argentina’s biggest loss against the All Blacks was 93-8 in 1997.
Argentina have a slightly better record against Australia, with 4 wins out of 17 games, and one draw. The scores have been somewhat closer as well, with the biggest loss been 53-7, in 2000. Argentina’s biggest victory was 18-3 in 1983.
Argentina have lost 13 times to South Africa with no draws or victories. The biggest loss was in 2008 where Argentina lost, 63-9. The closest score was 26-25, in 2003.
Ironically, that score came in South Africa (usually countries have a better record at home).
This tournament will mark a new era for rugby. Argentina have the potential to become a major force in rugby with annual competition against the best teams in the world.
New Zealand are the favourites for the Championship seeing as they are the current World Champions (2011), and after their performances against Ireland. They have a great record in the Tri-Nations as well, which doesn’t have the same pressures as the World Cup (i.e. there aren’t any knock-out stages).
Australia won the Tri-Nations last year but haven’t had great results since then. They were beaten in the World Cup semi-final, by New Zealand, and this year they suffered a shock loss to Scotland.
They also had a close series against Wales. Though they won the 3 tests, each match was close. Though they’re the reigning Tri-Nations champions, their victory came after a drought of 10 years, as they had not won the tournament since 2001.
South Africa had a tough series against England. Though they won, the last game ended in a draw. They also had their poorest ever World Cup results in last year’s World Cup, been knocked out by Australia in the quarter-final.
Whatever the results, the Rugby Championship signal a new dawn for rugby. Argentina has the potential to become a major force, with annual matches against the top teams in the game.
Btw, there are several reasons why the tournament should be relevant to Irish rugby fans: First of all, New Zealand walloped us in a 3-test series (well apart from the middle test).
Then, Ireland face both Argentina and South Africa in November tests. Finally, the British and Irish Lions will be touring Australia next year, a squad that will hopefully feature quite a few Irish names.