Will Warren Gatland pick his strongest XV? Trying to second guess the much-storied head coach is a fool’s errand but he certainly will against Australia six days later and he has no shortage of back-row options.
Six are present in Japan and based on the warm-ups, the foursome of Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty appear to be foremost in Gatland’s thoughts.
66-times capped Tipuric looks to be trusted at openside and 21-year-old Dragons man Wainwright has been fantastic on the other flank, leaving Moriarty and Navidi to fight it out.
Both are clearly very different players and the Guinness PRO14 statistics from last season confirm, and highlight, that tale.
Moriarty – the 25-year-old ironclad big basher – is a traditional No.8 and loves to punch a hole. In 663 minutes last season he made 141 metres for a 1.96m average gain.
Navidi played less minutes, 490, and has an average gain of 1.23m – Moriarty on top in this area. The Dragons No.8 also averages 14.77 tackles a game where Navidi averages 9.5.
The Cardiff Blues man has a trump card though and unsurprisingly it lies at the breakdown – last season Navidi won 10 turnovers and conceded one, Moriarty won four but conceded a surprising 10 – crucial possession at international level.
Where Gatland has back-row riches Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has a dilemma at full-back, do you start the always reliable Rob Kearney or young dazzler Jordan Larmour?
Again, both are very different players, and looking at the statistics from last season it’s easy to see what they offer.
Larmour, in 625 minutes, scored two tries, made 510 metres and beat 41 defenders. Kearney holds his own in this regard, scoring two tries in 538 minutes and claiming 410 metres, crucially though only beating 16 defenders in that time, Larmour inevitably creating gaps in the defence for others.
Kearney, perhaps unsurprisingly, offers a bit more defensively, making more tackles in far less minutes (21 tackles versus Larmour’s 17), and with a better success rate – 73% compared with Larmour’s 68%.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.