You might feel that with the English and Celtic Leagues drawing to a close for a summer, the next few months ahead will be a desolate hot wasteland where Rugby will be sorely missed. But, fortunately, you’re wrong. Here’s a quick run-through of all the action coming up over the next few months:
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales Summer Tours (June)
In what will ultimately be looked back on as one of the longest seasons ever, the four home nations are all off on tour next month to take on the Southern Hemisphere, all with very different ambitions.
England will look to continue the good work made in the Six Nations under their new regime against the Springboks, playing an extended tour with two midweek matches against a North & South South African Barbarians side. Ireland travel to New Zealand still searching for an elusive first win ever over the All Blacks. After a successful domestic campaign that brought about the first ever all-Irish Heineken Cup Final, now Declan Kidney must successfully bring the sides together.
Scotland will be desperate to start again after picking up the wooden spoon in this year’s Six Nations, buoyed by the recruitment of Edinburgh flyer Tim Visser and the promising form of some of their younger stars. Travelling to play Samoa and Fiji will be a great experience, but they will face the Wallabies first. Which leaves Grand Slam champions Wales, who will face Australia once again over three tests as they look to further their exciting development ahead of 2015.
England: South Africa (June 9th, June 16th, June 23rd)
Ireland: New Zealand (June 9th, June 16th, June 23rd)
Scotland: Australia (June 5th), Fiji (June 16th), Samoa (June 23rd)
Wales: Barbarians (June 2nd), Australia (June 9th, June 16th, June 23rd)
Super Rugby (June-August)
Set to take a break after this weekend for the June Internationals, three rounds of the regular Super Rugby competition remain before the playoffs towards the end of July. With the Reds currently struggling it appears that we will have a new champion come the final at the beginning of August, with the Chiefs, Stormers, Bulls and Brumbies all heavily impressing so far this season. It might also be the last time we see the Lions in action, with their status in next year’s currently in doubt with the rise of the Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth.
Playoffs: Qualifying Round (July 20th-21st), Semi Finals (July 27th-28th), Final (August 4th)
Currie Cup (August-October)
The oldest domestic cup competition in the game begins it’s 73rd season since it’s inception on August 11th – a week after the Super Rugby final – with traditional powerhouses Natal Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Griquas, the Blue Bulls and champions the Golden Lions looking to notch up another famous title. Derbies do not come more brutal.
Begins: Opening Round (August 11th)
Ends: Final (October 27th)
The Rugby Championship (August-October)
The newly re-formatted “Four Nations” will see Argentina take on New Zealand, South Africa and Australia for the first time in an expanded version of the old Tri-Nations tournament. Australia are the current champions and will start off with a Bledisloe Cup match against World Champions New Zealand, whilst South Africa will be the first side to travel to Argentina in Round Two. Fascinating to watch not just in terms of the talent on show, but also to see if it is logistically a success.
Begins: Opening Round (August 18th)
Ends: Final Round (October 6th)
ITM Cup (August-October)
Last but by no means least, New Zealand’s domestic Cup competition will see reigning champions Canterbury look to add a fifth title in just six years to their collection. They will come up against traditional powerhouses in Wellington, Otago, Southland, Auckland and Waikato, along with familiar names such as Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty.
Begins: Opening Round (August 23rd)
Ends: Final Round (October 27th)
Therefore by our calculations, there is not a single weekend this summer without any rugby for you to watch before we get underway once more with the London Double Header on September 1st. Personally, we cannot wait.