Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Test Rugby This Weekend 23 May

Canada v Ireland in Vancouver
Argentina 'A' v Chile in Buenos Aires (CONSUR A Semi-Final)
Israel v Lithuania in Netanya (WCQ Europe R2 Playoff)

Kazakhstan v Hong Kong in Almaty (Asia 5 Nations)
Singapore v Japan in Singapore (Asia 5 Nations)

It's only days from the beginning of the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa. Most of the followers of world international rugby will be giving their time to following that tour. But before that there are a few little morsels of rugby interest elsewhere.

Probably unknown to most, but certainly with some significance, will be the test to be played in Israel. Yes Israel! This Saturday the Israeli team will host the mighty Lithuanians. Both teams have made significant rises in their world rankings, whether it be the official IRB rankings or my GWC Rugby Rankings.

Lithuania arrives in Israel with some significant rugby attributes. Firstly, from a fairly small club base, they have built an amazing winning combination. Fourteen wins in fact, all in a row. Two of the wins were, over the past two seasons, against neighbours Latvia who play in a division above the Lithuanians. So the Lithuanians have conquered all in ENC Division 3A for 2008-09 and so they face another amazing team with an impressive record.

You wouldn't think Israel takes its rugby seriously but I'm afraid your wrong. They do. And they have an impressive record of late to back the boast up. Firstly they won the lowest division in Europe participating in the 2011 Rugby World Cup qualifying system. Next they caused a major upset by defeating Slovenia who won Division 3B, which is above Israel's division. Now Israel play host to the Lithuanians who look to be favourites to take this match. Well, the Slovenians were favourites last week as well.

Another important test match this weekend is between Hong Kong and Kazakhstan. Whilst it's not to decide anything really in the Asia 5 Nations it will give a gauge as to the progress these two Asia teams has made. Both play a standard below the Japanese but are threatening Korea's traditional position as No.2 in Asia.

And finally, Ireland arrive in North America for two tests. Well actually its more accurate to label the team Ireland 'B', as the British and Irish Lions team in South Africa contain most of Ireland's top players. Still, the significance of this tour is the blooding of new Irish players who will be required to take over from some of the veterans in the Six Nations 2009 Grand Slam winning side.


  1. I think Israel's victory over Slovenia supports our earlier assumption that Slovenia's success this season may have been significantly due to them surprising the other teams.

    A full Ireland side in the USA would be a waste of time for everyone involved. However, with so many Irish players going to South Africa, this match will be more productive. (Though the US is also missing some top players as well.)

    One thing I really don't understand is why the lower-seeded team in these European playoffs gets to play at home. Shouldn't Israel have traveled to Slovenia and Lithuania?

  2. Over here in SE Asia, rivals Cambodia and Laos also play on 23 May in Phnom Penh. This one is a rematch of the Cambodia-Laos encounter on 28 March in the HSBC 5Nations Regional tournament. Laos won that one, 8-3.

    Should be another close one.