Guinness PRO14 takeaways: Summer Internationals

Will Thompson
10 June 2018

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The Guinness PRO14 may be all but finished for the season, but its stars are still on show as they take to the international stage in search of summer test-series glory.

Rhys Patchell, Scarlets

Italy opened their account with Japan, Ireland began their contest with Australia, Wales took on the Argentinians and Scotland travelled to Canada, with mouth-watering action in all four games.

Japan 34-17 Italy

  • On his 20th start in Italy colours, Benetton Rugby’s Braam Steyn opened his international account with a late first-half try against the Brave Blossoms. The 26-year-old, who made his Azzurri bow back in February 2016, broke a tackle as he charged over the line with 36 minutes on the clock after fine work from Mattia Bellini.
  • Zebre’s Marcello Violi toiled throughout as he attempted to get Italy motoring at the Oita Bank Dome. The scrum-half completed 69 passes on Saturday – more than any other player on the pitch – replicating the form he showed during Round 21 of the Guinness PRO14, when he topped the charts across the Championship.
  • Just two players that ply their trade outside the Guinness PRO14 started for the Azzurri in their first summer showdown with Japan. In addition, a further six replacements that play for either Benetton Rugby or Zebre were introduced as head coach Conor O’Shea cast his eye over the options at his disposal.

Australia 18-9 Ireland

  • He may have ended up on the losing side but there was enough to suggest Joey Carbery can certainly cut it as Ireland’s starting fly-half. Despite one poor miss, he kicked accurately, his distribution was good and he refused to be bullied by Australia’s heavy backs. Jonathan Sexton may force his way back in but Ireland can rest safe in the knowledge they have a strong replacement.
  • Australia have never been known as the best scrummaging side around but they got the better of Ireland when it mattered most. Tighthead John Ryan had a tough evening, with most of the pressure down his side – and a couple of crucial penalties were secured by the Wallabies as a result. It is pivotal they start to control the set-piece if they want to get back into the series.
  • James Ryan’s record since breaking through for both Leinster and Ireland is extraordinary, so much so that the match against Australia marked the first defeat of his career. Away in Brisbane and faced by a hostile bunch of Wallabies forwards, Ryan could easily have drifted out of the game been overawed. But instead he stood up, tackled hard and forced some memorable turnovers. He is certainly no flash in the pan.

Wales 23-10 Argentina

  • Warren Gatland made eight changes to the team that edged past South Africa, but the swap-ins proved a genius move as those players with a point to prove and a case to make starred in this victory. Cardiff Blues boy Ellis Jenkins made a convincing claim on the No. 7 jersey when he led the team against South Africa, but Scarlets’ James Davies went one better against the Pumas with his superb score and tenacity at the breakdown. Tomos Williams drew praise for his display against the Boks, so scrum-half Gareth Davies knew he needed to get his established backline quick ball – which he did perfectly all game.
  • Rhys Patchell justified his starting place, this his first since the loss to England, and his booming right boot gave Wales a real edge in this encounter. The Scarlets fly-half kept the scoreboard ticking over with 10 points from the tee, while utterly outwitting his counterpart Nicolas Sanchez in the territory stakes.
  • Both co-captains Ellis Jenkins and Cory Hill have reaped the rewards from their chance to lead their country, with the latter skippering the side against Argentina admirably. The Dragons lock stood up to the mark, making all the right calls and setting a bone-crunching example in defence. It would be a brave man to predict who will be handed the armband for the second Test next week, given how Jenkins and Hill have grasped the opportunity with both hands.

Canada 10-48 Scotland

  • It was not only the starters that fuelled Scotland’s barnstorming victory in Edmonton, the bench had an even larger significant impact on the game, with replacement hooker George Turner scoring a hat-trick of tries after coming on half an hour in, while Glasgow Warriors teammate Adam Hastings impressed on his first appearance. Another debutant, Edinburgh’s Lewis Carmichael, also came off the bench and scored after taking a great inside line to race clear for the final try.
  • Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was given another shot at scrum-half by Townsend following an eye-catching season at Edinburgh. Kicking three conversions and a penalty to keep the points racking up, he certainly justified his inclusion. But it was the control the 24-year-old gave to the Scottish team that stood out, instructing them when to hold onto it up front and when to release the backs, and he has raised his hand for a starting place over Warriors’ Ali Price.
  • Scotland’s defence was solid throughout and Canada struggled to get any grip on the game whatsoever. Edinburgh back row pairing Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie made 28 tackles between them and didn’t miss a single one, epitomising the work rate of the pack and indeed the whole squad to see out the victory.

 

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