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Meet the underdogs of the Summer Nations Series

Meet the underdogs of the Summer Nations Series

Georgia v Wales

The Summer Nations Series is just around the corner, with 15 matches for fans to feast on as the perfect appetiser for the Rugby World Cup.

Of the 13 nations set to face off this summer, there are the familiar faces of the entire Guinness Six Nations set, plus two visitors from the Rugby Championship in the form of South Africa and Australia.

The remaining quintet belong to neither of each hemisphere’s dominant annual competition but are some of international rugby’s most exciting up and coming sides.

The Summer Nations Series is another chance for fans to get themselves up to speed with some potential underdogs ahead of this autumn’s World Cup as all five take on Northern Hemisphere opposition in August.

Here’s what you need to know.

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The most established of the emerging nations having reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup they hosted, Japan travel to Rome this summer to face Italy at the iconic Stadio Olimpico.

Their run to the last eight four years ago came courtesy of wins against Scotland and Ireland but they remain the Brave Blossoms’ most recent victories against Tier One nations and Jamie Joseph’s side will be keen to snap that streak ahead of a World Cup pool that contains England and Argentina.

Victory in Rome would also be a significant boost for Japanese fortunes on the road, with just one of their seven victories over Tier One nations coming outside of Japan – that being their famous 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

Joseph will depart as head coach after the World Cup and will be keen to repeat his quarter-final feat from four years ago; victory against Italy in the Summer Nations Series would lay the perfect foundations for a memorable time in France.


Georgia have long been touted as the up-and-coming rugby nation in the Northern Hemisphere, and it felt like the Lelos finally made their long-awaited breakthrough last autumn.

A first-ever victory over Tier One opposition came last July, as Italy were put to the sword 28-19 in Batumi but the best was yet to come, as Georgia beat Wales in Cardiff 13-12 to rock the rugby world.

Their good form continued into 2023 as they went undefeated to clinch the 2023 Rugby Europe Championship, beating Portugal 38-11 in the final, and they now face Scotland at BT Murrayfield in August as part of their World Cup preparations.

Lying in wait for the Lelos in France are Australia, Portugal, Fiji, and Wales, the latter of whom Georgia know they must almost certainly beat to make it through to the knockout stages for the first time.

But before focus can switch to France, the Lelos’ trip to Edinburgh will be a stringent test of their credentials following a breakout 12 months.


While more eyes have been on the development of Georgia, across the Black Sea Romania have slowly but surely made waves of their own.

The Oaks finished third in the 2023 Rugby Europe Championship, beating Spain 31-25 to clinch bronze after defeat to Georgia in the last four.

But opportunities to pit themselves against higher-ranked opposition have been few and far between, making the upcoming Summer Nations Series match against Italy in Rome all the more valuable.

The Azzurri were comfortable 45-13 winners a year ago, meaning the Oaks will have a perfect barometer of just how far they have come in the 12 months.

It is a test they will hope to learn plenty from ahead of a tough World Cup pool containing defending champions South Africa, Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland, and Scotland.


The first of two Pacific island nations to take part in the Summer Nations Series, Fiji take on both France and England this summer ahead of a seventh-consecutive appearance at the Rugby World Cup.

Fiji last reached the knockout stages of a World Cup in 2007 after beating Wales in the pool stage, but just four wins against Tier One nations have followed in the ensuing 16 years.

The most recent of those came against France at the Stade de France, the same stadium where the pair will face off this summer, with Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova both scoring.

It remains Fiji’s sole victory from ten matches against Les Bleus and their meeting this summer will prove a tough test ahead of this autumn’s World Cup.

But pitting themselves against the world’s leading nations is what Simon Raiwalui’s side require if they are to avoid a fourth pool stage exit in a row.

Thus a second contest against a Six Nations side in England, at Twickenham a week later, will also be welcome ahead of clashes against Wales and Australia in France.


Rounding off the Summer Nations Series, Samoa take on Grand Slam champions Ireland in Dublin on the final weekend of action in August.

It has been 27 years since Samoa recorded a famous 40-25 victory at Lansdowne Road, and Seilala Mapusua’s men will be out to break that duck as they near almost a decade since a win over a Northern Hemisphere side.

Whatever the result in Dublin, Samoa will hope to put those lessons to good use in France, where they face England, Japan, Argentina, and Chile in Pool D in search of a first quarter-final appearance since 1999.

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