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Southern Hemisphere sides gear up for 2023 Rugby Championship

Southern Hemisphere sides gear up for 2023 Rugby Championship

Argentina v New Zealand

While most Northern Hemisphere eyes might be fixed on the upcoming Summer Nations Series ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup, there is yet more top class international rugby for fans to indulge in with the return of the Rugby Championship.

Truncated as usual for a World Cup year, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa will all face each other once across July in what should prove a serious test of the quartet’s credentials ahead of autumnal trips to France.

Reigning world champions South Africa get proceedings underway at home to Australia, before Argentina welcome New Zealand in the first round of fixtures this weekend.

The Pumas then hit the road for the rest of their campaign, travelling first to Sydney to face Australia while South Africa face defending champions New Zealand in Auckland before the Championship rounds off with Australia against New Zealand in Melbourne and South Africa welcoming Argentina to Johannesburg.

Eddie Jones is back

A familiar face to Guinness Six Nations fans will make his return to the international stage, as Eddie Jones takes his second bow as Australia head coach against South Africa.

Jones coached England for seven years before departing at the end of last year, but was offered a near-immediate route back into international management with his native Wallabies, for whom he was previously at the helm between 2001 and 2005.

The 63-year-old will have just five matches to get his side up to speed ahead of their World Cup opener against Georgia, with Jones making his return to European soil with a mouth-watering clash against France in August.

It is the Wallabies’ only match in the Summer Nations Series, and is likely to prove as big a test as Jones will have had since returning to the hot seat, with the World Cup hosts boasting just one defeat in their last 18 matches.

Australia’s fortunes should also prove intriguing viewing for Wales fans ahead of the sides’ pool stage match-up on 24 September.

Pumas chase maiden home win against All Blacks

Last year’s Rugby Championship was a landmark one for Argentina, as they earned their first win against the All Blacks away in New Zealand.

Ian Foster’s side are never down for long, however, and exacted crushing revenge a week later with a 53-3 win in Hamilton.

It was a stark reminder of just how ruthless the All Blacks can be, with only a draw against England halting a six-match winning streak in response to that defeat.

Their Autumn Nations Series performances made simultaneously encouraging and ominous viewing for Guinness Six Nations fans, with both Scotland and England exposing chinks in the All Black armour but also feeling the heat of New Zealand at their well-oiled best.

Their Rugby Championship showings will make captivating viewing for France and Italy fans, who will seek further clues on how to break down the three-time world champions ahead of their Pool A meetings.

Also watching closely will be Steve Borthwick and England, who will look to avoid the mistakes made last November, as they fell to a first home defeat to the Pumas, the side they will open their World Cup campaign against in Marseille.

Springboks seek consistency

Defending champions South Africa come into the 2023 Rugby Championship with plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Guinness Six Nations fans will still have the Springboks’ 27-13 victory over England at Twickenham, including Kurt-Lee Arendse’s electric try, fresh in their minds.

That, alongside a second-place finish in the Rugby Championship last year courtesy of four wins from six, should give Jacques Nienaber plenty of confidence ahead of two home ties and a trip to New Zealand.

But last autumn also raised plenty of questions thanks to defeats to France and Ireland, the latter of whom they face in Pool B following their Grand Slam victory earlier this year.

The Boks also face a Scotland side rejuvenated after this year’s Guinness Six Nations in their World Cup opener, and have just the single warm-up match on European soil in preparation.

That comes against Wales in Cardiff as part of the Summer Nations Series, where they will take on Warren Gatland’s side a month before starting their title defence in Marseille.

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