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Lions Watch

A lacklustre display from the northern hemisphere teams. But is it all doom as we approach a Lions tour?Image

First thing first. This autumn internationals have been frustratingly disappointing from a British Isles point of view. Wales and Scotland fail to win a single game. England fall short twice. And Ireland having an average autumn too. Does Warren Gatland really have dilemmas? Let’s have a look at some players who have shined from each team to possibly be stir a problem for the 2013 selectors.

Dan Cole

The England tight head prop has stood out for me. Not only has his scrummaging been solid and accurate against massive sides, not notably South Africa, known for their big hits up front. His rucking and defence has been quite remarkable. With many turnovers to his name and being at the right point at the right time, Dan Cole is slowly becoming the real deal in that number 3 shirt.

Donnacha Ryan

and Ryan increasingly looks the dominant figure in the Irish second row, with Paul O’Connell struggling with injury and Donncha O’Callaghan no longer a first-choice. His presence in both the line out and scrums has been superb, rarely losing the ball when being thrown up and providing cover for the strong Cian Healy.

Toby Faletau

The welsh back row is a presence that Wales use to their advantage, confident ball carrying, strong, hard fast running and uses that to his advantage with a big tackle up front. Toby has excelled under Warren Gatland particular due to his ruthless style of play and given the freedom to roam the park, Faletau will be a good shout for number 8 come down under.

Stuart Hogg

The obvious candidate for Scotland, Richie Gray, will be on that tour, in fact arguably the only world class player on Scotland’s roster of players.

However Stuart Hogg over the past year has become a regular 1st xv player for the scots. Not only will he run at defenders, his pace and quick feet disguise well and he can easily break the game line. Through the year at full back his tackling has improved, with the other candidates at full back that the selectors have, If Hogg can have a solid six nations early next year, I am extremely confident he can be the surprise selection.

Would you agree with our choices? Who has been your stand out player from each team?


Joe Launchbury has been called up to the England squad

England have sprung a surprise by promoting the uncapped Wasp back-row forward Joe Launchbury into their matchday squad for Saturday’s game against Fiji. The 21-year-old Launchbury, who did not feature in the original autumn selection, has been promoted ahead of the more experienced James Haskell, Phil Dowson and Ben Morgan who have all been released back to their clubs for the next round of Aviva premiership games.


The Exeter-born, was outstanding for Wasps this term and it has shown with a Wasps team already bagging 19 points from 8 games. Having also played in this year’s IRB Junior World Championship. He started every match and excelled throughout but in the summer of 2012, he was ruled out of England’s senior summer tour through a knee injury sustained during pre-tour training.

There is still the debate, whether Launchbury should be playing lock or back row still remains, however a mouth-watering partnership with Courtney Lawes in the second row will not only be ruthless, but will set a firm platform for the future.

Ever since making his debut for Wasps against Leicester Tigers he has been an asset for the Wycombe-based club.

Do you agree, should England call up Joe Launchbury or will he justify his position on the pitch?


Are Wales world beaters?

Wales were disappointed to finish fourth in last year’s World Cup, but there will only be celebrations if they finish the year fourth in the world rankings as it will mean they will avoid the likes of New Zealand in their 2015 World Cup group.

Currently standing at sixth place in the world, the Welsh will face Argentina, Samoa, NImageew Zealand and Australia at the Millennium Stadium knowing that they have to win these games, and hoping that France and England lose more games than they win.

The Wales squad, at least those who do not play for clubs in France and England, spent last week training in Poland, as they did before the World Cup and the 2012 Six Nations, described as by Shaun Edwards ‘The perfect place to be’. The monumental facilities and un-welcoming weather will clash to provide a stern training camp, just as it has done the past 15 months.

Wales will be without two key members of their grand slam team, the prop Adam Jones and the flanker Dan Lydiate, who both have long-term injuries. Former captain Ryan Jones left Spala early because he needed treatment on a shoulder problem, and Wales may be forced to move their captain Sam Warburton to blind-side flanker against the Pumas, the warrior that Sam Warburton has become, he can be unplayable anywhere on that rugby field.

Personally, Wales and more importantly, Rob Howley, will have a lot to prove regardless of a successful 2012 so far. If they truly want to be likened to the world’s best test rugby nations, they will need this autumn to be 100% otherwise 2015 will be very much a difficult tournament.

Have they got enough? No, I do not see Wales breaking into the top 4 especially with the power of the French and the English showing signs of world beating form.

Do you agree? Are Wales genuinely the northern hemisphere? Or does it really matter due to the enormous skill of the southern hemisphere teams?

England’s Autumn Opponents

A lot has been said about this new England squad, many top pundits even describing as this current flock of England talent as the best side since 2003. Understandably the headlines are stolen by news of injuries to England stalwarts Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, and now a one-match ban for Saracens winger Chris Ashton, we take a look at how England’s four opposition will fare up against the almighty roar at the home of Rugby.


Fiji – 10th November

With momentum such a key in modern day international rugby, this will be an excellent chance for the QBE internationals kicking off to a victorious start for the English. Or as a nation, is there an expectance to overturn a psychical, passionate Fijian side?

The Fijians have named a squad with 16 un-capped players. Now, this could mean two things. Inexperience will get the better of these players, or in fact the opposite, this team could become a future driving force for Fiji. Key players.  Nikola Matawalu (Glasgow Warriors) Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers) Ravai Fatiaki (Worcester Warriors)

Having won 0 out of the 4 matches so far in their history against England, I expect England to be too much for a very strong Fiji.

Australia – 17th November

The first ‘massive test’ for England is familiar foe Australia who are arguably the weakest team out of the ‘big 3’. In recent years, the home team have beaten Australia in the last 3 attempts which include the 35-18 victory all the way back in 2010.

In a contrast to the Fiji side, Australia have only announced only one uncapped player in Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan, which indicates that Robbie Deans is happy with his squad, and we will see this familiar Australian side in years to come. Despite injuries to Will Genia and Quade Cooper, who miss the tour, Australia welcome back David Pocock in the back row.

However, this side has a great future with stars such as flankers Liam Gill and Michael Hooper, fly half Kurtley Beale and scrum half Nick Phipps. I believe the newly formed England squad to roll over this Australian side, however, enjoy it while it lasts, This Australian team will be back laughing come round to 2015.

South Africa 24th November

Injuries have also plagued the South African side. Prolific try scorer Bryan Habana will miss the tour with a knee injury, hot prospect fly-half Johan Goosen is also out, whilst experienced Springboks Bis

marck du Plessis, Pierre Spies and Frans Steyn will all miss the tour because of injury. This has resulted in a relatively youthful and inexperienced South African squad being selected, and gifts England a sparkling opportunity to go one better than their last match against the Springboks, a 14-14 draw back in June.

However, The Springboks will still ooze skill and power through their squad with Francois Louw having proven himself to be one of the premiere flankers in world rugby, Willem Alberts who had a great series against England in the Summer, and Eben Etzebeth has also broke into the Springboks this year. In terms of England point of view, they should not let themselves get wrapped up into the euphoria of a Ha

bana-less tour, however it should be the opposite as next generation backs are being produced under Meyer. Especially world-beater JP Pieterson who can score from anywhere on the park.

New Zealand – 1st December

World champions, best team in the world, or in fact, ever have been phases being thrown around

to describe this New Zealand side. With the series looking that it will end in blockbuster form with the All Blacks.  Stuart Lancaster will have his work drawn to a conclusion in this monster mash-up.

England should well be aware of the skills that possess within Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, arguably the two out-standing players from the past few years. They will also have to be aware of up and coming players such as winger Julian Savea who has already scored six tries in his five internationals and looks refreshingly set to take the world by storm. I know, another All Black!

All odds are on that New Zealand will look to complete a undefeated tour of Europe and England will have to be aware of this, as they will field their strongest, most ruthless world beating squad.

Final Thought

There is no reason at all, that England cannot win 2 out of the 4. However, they should not look to set themselves on this. I genuinely believe that this England squad can go into the first weekend of December unbeaten and go into that New Zealand clash with their heads held high and give the All Blacks the biggest test they have been given all year.

Prediction: 3 out of 4 wins

Do you agree with the squad’s analysis? Any teams that look as if they will get or be give out a walkover? Comment with your views and the best ones will be publish on our social media sites.


Hello world!

Welcome to On The Ball UK, a brand new sports blog bringing you different takes on the latest news in the Sporting world.

I will take this opportunity to introduce the team:

Ryan Butler (@abaconButtee) – Ryan will be taking care of all things Football and Snooker. As a Trainee Sports Broadcaster his opinions of football come with experience and passion. As a Hampshire fan, Ryan will also be giving his insight on the goings on in the world of Cricket.

Stephen Orwin (@stephenorwinxv) – Stephen is our Rugby man. There isn’t anything going on in the land of the egg shaped ball that this man doesn’t know anything about whether its League or Union. Stephen will also be covering aspects of Tennis throughout the sporting seasons and don’t be surprised to see his two cents in regards to Cricket.

Josh Orwin (@Orwinner) – Josh is our chief Cricket writer. He loves the game and knows a thing or two when it comes to playing and analysing the sport, whether its County or International Cricket he is the man when it comes to the big thing out on the field. Josh will also be chipping in with thoughts and reaction to the goings on in Golf and at points will even have his say on the Football aswell.

Thats the team! Now all we need to say is to look out for regular posts and updates as well as later on in the year refreshing articles on minor sports which we love and follow.