Summer internationals: PRO14 aces fly the flag

Daniel Barnes
15 June 2018

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The Guinness PRO14’s stars will be wearing their countries’ colours with pride this weekend as the summer internationals once again take centre stage.

Wales will attempt to clinch back-to-back wins over Argentina, Scotland test their mettle against the United States while South Africa look to once again slam the brakes on England.

We’ve taken a look at some of the key plotlines to keep an eye on this weekend.

Moriarty’s up for the fight

As Wales prepare to conclude their summer business with the second Test against the Pumas, Dragons-bound Ross Moriarty says that he is thriving amongst the ferocious competition for back-row spots.

The 24-year-old, who will be plying his trade in the Guinness PRO14 next season after agreeing a move to Rodney Parade from Gloucester, has played every minute of Wales’ clashes with South Africa and Argentina this month so far.

He was also the top tackler as Warren Gatland’s side ran out 23-10 winners over Argentina in last weekend’s first Test and keeps his place at No.8 at the Estadio Centenario in Resistencia.

“I’m not going to sit back and let someone else take my spot easily,” said Moriarty.

“There is some serious competition and at the moment, there are a lot of back-rowers in very good form.

“There will be lots of competition next season but it is only going to make you want to train harder, so I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve been involved in the 80 minutes for each game, which I wasn’t really expecting, but I’ve been pleased with how it’s gone.”

Wales have once again shuffled their pack ahead of the second Test, making five changes.

Cardiff Blues’ Ellis Jenkins comes in at blindside flanker while Ryan Elias is deployed in the front row, with his Scarlets teammate Aled Davies starting at scrum-half.

Ospreys’ Owen Watkin will play at inside centre while Tomas Francis, of Exeter, joins Elias in the front row.

‘Asset’ Hogg worth his weight in gold

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend gushed as he spelled out just how much Stuart Hogg – his captain for this weekend’s Stateside showdown with the United States – has developed as a player.

Townsend was Hogg’s coach at Glasgow Warriors for five years and the Scotland chief praised the 25-year-old full-back for overcoming the numerous obstacles thrown up by his international career thus far.

“We all have challenges, especially what he achieved at such a young age; playing for his country at 19, playing for the Lions [in 2013] at 20, 21, playing outstanding rugby,” said Townsend.

“He’s also had some great life experiences – getting married and having kids – and that changes you too.

“He loves playing for Scotland. He loves the history – the players that used to play, and the songs – he loves all that aspect. He loves touring.

“So he’s a real asset for us on the field but also off the field.”

Townsend has made no less than 12 changes to the Scotland team that defeated Canada 48-10 last time out ahead of their meeting with the Eagles at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Hogg’s Warriors teammates George Horne and Matt Fagerson will make their international debuts and also play alongside their brothers Peter and Zander, who both also ply their trade at Scotstoun.

There are also starts for the likes of Edinburgh Rugby’s Blair Kinghorn and Lewis Carmichael, who is in line to earn his second cap.

All eyes on Bloemfontein

The Toyota Cheetahs’ Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein is the stage as South Africa renew hostilities with England.

Having conceded three tries in the opening 17 minutes, the Springboks roared back to record a dramatic 42-39 victory over the English at Ellis Park in last weekend’s first Test.

South Africa have made two changes ahead of Saturday’s second Test but Cheetahs duo Oupa Mohoje and Ox Nche haven’t been included in the matchday 23 miss out on the chance to represent their country at their home ground.

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