July rugby Tests Week 1: Everything you need to know for the weekend

The two rugby hemispheres come back together this year July, with several massive series taking place across the globe.

Can Ireland win a first Test on New Zealand soil? Will Australia at last end this losing run to England? Can a struggling Wales spring an upset in South Africa?

It really is a tantalising few weeks of rugby.

Read on for all the line-ups and key team news as it comes to hand, plus our match previews and the odds.

Japan vs. France | New Zealand vs. Ireland | Australia vs. England | South Africa vs. Wales | Argentina vs. Scotland

Saturday, July 2

Japan vs. France, Toyota Stadium, Aichi Prefecture, 3:00pm [4:00pm AEST, 7:00am GMT]

Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Gerhard Van Den Heever, Dylan Riley, Shogo Nakano, Siosaia Fifita, Takuya Yamasawa, Kaito Shigeno, Tevita Tatafu, Ben Gunter, Michael Leitch, Jack Cornelsen, Wimpie van der Walt, Asaeli Ai Valu, Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki. Replacements: Daigo Hashimoto, Yukio Morikawa, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Warner Dearns, Faulua Makisi, Daiki Nakajima, Lee Seung-Shin, Taichi Takahashi.

France: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Yoram Moefana, Matthis Lebel, Matthieu Jalibert, Maxime Lucu, Yoan Tanga, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon, Thomas Jolmes, Thibaud Flament, Demba Bamba, Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros. Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Dany Priso, Sipili Falatea, Thomas Lavault, Selevasio Tolofua, Sekou Macalou, Baptiste Couilloud, Antoine Hastoy


Japan coach Jamie Joseph recalled World Cup stalwart Wimpie van der Walt to his second row for Saturday's test against France at Toyota Stadium as he looks to match the Six Nations champions at the set piece.

There were six changes to the team that routed Uruguay 43-7 last weekend as scrumhalf Naoto Saito, hooker Shota Horie and fullback Ryuji Noguchi withdrew from the squad due to being in "poor condition", the Japan Rugby Football Union said.

South African-born winger Gerhard van den Heever keeps his starting spot after scoring a try on debut against Uruguay at the age of 33 last week.

Hooker Atsushi Sakate will lead the team for the second time in the first of two tests against the French, while Takuya Yamasawa will again run the backline from flyhalf.

"The first thing we have to do is match their set piece, or better it," Joseph said. "They're very strong in the line out and at scrum time and they play a power game. This is what France will bring to the match, and we've got to be able to handle that.

"Our game plan will be to keep the ball in play and attack them at every opportunity, while being mindful that we need to strike the right balance and understand that the heat is going to play a big part."

Meanwhile, Charles Ollivon will captain France as he continues his return to the international stage, while uncapped lock Thomas Jolmes and flanker Yoan Tanga will make their debuts.

Back row forward Ollivon spent the best part of a year on the sidelines after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament at the end of last season.

The 29-year-old returned to club action during the Six Nations and earlier this month led the Barbarians in their 52-21 rout of England.

Antoine Dupont led France to a Six Nations Grand Slam in March but Ollivon will resume his role with the scrumhalf among a host of first-choice players rested by coach Fabien Galthie.

Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet and Yoram Moefana retain their places from the Six Nations squad, while Bordeaux pair Matthieu Jalibert and Maxime Lucu will team up for Les Bleus for the first time.

France have never lost to Japan but drew 23-23 with the Brave Blossoms when the teams last met in 2017. Tip: France by 17.


New Zealand vs. Ireland, Eden Park, Auckland, 7:05pm [5:05pm AEST, 8:05 GMT]

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Ofa Tuungafasi, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Pita Gus Sowakula, Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, Braydon Ennor.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O'Mahony, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter. Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Finaly Bealham, Cian Healy, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Bundee Aki.

Odds: [tab.com.au Aus only] New Zealand $1.25 -9.5 $1.85; Ireland $3.70, +9.5 $1.95

Preview: Ravaged by COVID, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made several surprise calls in his first All Blacks side for 2022 with lock Scott Barrett moving into blindside flanker as Foster looks to bulk up his forward pack. The Barrett move has become the major talking point of this team as Foster attempts to counter the physicality the Irish pack will bring to Eden Park, while the switch also gives the lineout another option.

In another surprise decision, Ofa Tuungafasi got the nod at tighthead with Nepo Laulala omitted from the 23 through a sore neck, while George Bower was listed ahead of the more experienced Karl Tu'inukuafe. This is an area that Ireland will be keen to strike with their impressive front row in Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter, looking to replicate their impact in Dublin last year, while their tight passing game caused plenty of headaches for the All Blacks.

All three Barretts will get a start on Saturday, with Beauden beating out Richie Mo'unga for the No.10 jersey, while Jordie starts at fullback with Foster forced to dig deep for his backline with several COVID-complications.

Quinn Tupaea and Reiko Ioane will cover the All Blacks midfield with David Havili and Jack Goodhue scratched through Covid, while there's no room for league convert Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Ireland will no doubt look to exploit the channel through Gary Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw with their game plan revolving very much around Johnny Sexton.

History will be on the All Blacks side this week with an unbeaten record at Eden Park since 1994, but a strong win in Dublin last year will be fresh in the Ireland team's mind. This will be a tight contest and Ireland have a strong chance to put an under-manned All Blacks to the sword, but New Zealand at home, under pressure are a different beast. Tip: New Zealand by 3.

Australia vs. England, Optus Stadium, Perth, 7:55pm [10:55am GMT]

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Rob Leota, Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Allan Alaalatoa, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell. Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Matt Philip, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Jordan Petaia.

England: Freddie Steward, Jack Nowell, Joe Marchant, Owen Farrell, Joe Cokanasiga, Marcus Smith, Danny Care, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Will Stuart, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes (C), Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Jack van Poortlviet, Guy Porter, Henry Arundell.

Odds: [tab.com.au Aus only] Australia $1.52, -4.5 $1.90; England $2.45, +4.5 $1.90


England coach Eddie Jones has recalled scrumhalf Danny Care and number eight Billy Vunipola after lengthy absences in an experienced side captained by Courtney Lawes to take on the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday in the first of three July Tests.

While the core of the starting side that will be looking for a ninth straight win over Australia is made up of grizzled veterans, three players could make their Test debuts off the bench at Perth Stadium.

Former England under-20s skipper Jack van Poortvliet will back up Care at halfback, while centre Guy Porter and exciting 19-year-old fullback Henry Arundell -- an apprentice player -- could also launch their international careers.

Care was banished to international exile after a disagreement with Jones in 2018 but gets another chance at the age of 35 in the absence of Ben Youngs, while Vunipola will play his first test since the 2021 Six Nations.

His brother, Mako Vunipola, also brings 67 caps worth of experience to the bench in a side that looks set up to muscle the Australians off the park.

Owen Farrell's kicking, both for position and points, will be key to maintaining the pressure on the Wallabies if that is the gameplan and he was named at centre outside the more mercurial talents of flyhalf Marcus Smith.

The Wallabies, meanwhile, have named two debutants in their run-on side, with Cadeyrn Neville and Dave Porecki to take their international bows at 33 and 29 years of age respectively.

Elsewhere, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has recalled the successful Quade Cooper-Samu Kerevi partnership that was such a big success during the Rugby Championship last year, as part of a backline that really started to hit its straps.

But much of the Wallabies' go-forward will lie with powerhouse back-rower Rob Valetini. If he can get the hosts on the front foot, as he did the Brumbies in Super Rugby Pacific, then Australia will fancy their chance of a first win over England since 2015.

The Australians, too, have signalled their intention to create the "best maul in the world", which again will be borne out of their heavy Brumbies representation. Look for Folau Faingaa's injection of the bench late on in this one. Tip: Australia by 2.

-Reuters- with ESPN staff

South Africa vs. Wales, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 5:05pm [1:05am Sun AEST, 4:05pm GMT]

South Africa: Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Elrigh Louw, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Willie le Roux

Wales: Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar (captain), Kieran Hardy, Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Dan Lydiate, Tommy Reffell, Taulupe Faletau. Replacements: Dewi Lake, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin.

Odds: [tab.com.au, Aus only] South Africa $1.07, -18.5 $1.85; Wales 7.50, +18.5 $1.90


Wales return to the scene of one of their darkest days when they face South Africa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but with many in the squad too young to remember their record 96-13 mauling in 1998, coach Wayne Pivac believes they can spring a surprise.

It is also their first test since a shock home loss to Italy at the end of this year's Six Nations, a result Pivac has called "embarrassing" and further motivation, if any was needed, to beat the world champions this weekend in front of a capacity 52,000 crowd at what many believe is the spiritual home of Springbok rugby.

Having lost all of their 10 tests in South Africa, one thing Pivac is clear about is that his side will not feel defeated before they walk onto the pitch.

"Everybody does their homework, we know what we think is coming," Pivac told reporters on Thursday. "We are at altitude in the first Test. We factor those things in. We have a game-plan fit for this venue and this opposition.

"Everybody knows what you're coming to, you've got this rich history and a lot is made of playing at altitude. It's exciting.

"The boys are really enjoying being in a different climate. It's a massive challenge. It'll be a good test and it'll show us exactly where we are."

Wales have George North slotting in at centre after a year out, and also welcome the return of loose-forward Dan Lydiate following a similar absence.

But Pivac has left experienced players Tomas Francis, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi and Tomos Williams on the bench in what is perhaps a sign of a changing of the guard.

South Africa have selected a team that strongly resembles the one which lifted the World Cup in Japan three years ago.

Elton Jantjies will line-up at flyhalf and Damian Willemse at fullback in the place of Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux respectively.

"This team is a balance between guys who have not trained over the last three weeks and those who have," coach Jacques Nienaber said.

"There is a bigger plan and this week's team is the best we can pick in terms of that balance." Tip: South Africa by 20.


Argentina vs. Scotland, Estadio 23 de Agosto, San Salvador, 4:10pm [5:10am Sun AEST, 8:10pm GMT]

Argentina: Juan Cruz Mallia, Santiago Cordero, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya (capt), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Joel Sclavi, Lucas Paulos, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Santiago Carreras, Matias Moroni.

Scotland: Rory Hutchinson, Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price, Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist (captain), Jonny Gray, Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Rory Darge, Ben White, Ross Thompson, Sione Tuipulotu.

Odds: [tab.com.au Aus only] Argentina $1.46, -5.5 $1.90; Scotland $2.60, +5.5 $1.85


Grant Gilchrist will captain Scotland for the first time in four years while Luke Crosbie will make his first start for the country in the first test against Argentina at San Salvador de Jujuy on Saturday.

Centre Mark Bennett will make his first start since 2016 having forced his way back into the Scotland setup after last month being named as Edinburgh's Player of the Season.

British & Irish Lion Duhan van der Merwe returns on the wing after being suspended for the last two games of the Six Nations, where Scotland beat Italy away but then lost in Ireland.

Scotland did not take Stuart Hogg or Finn Russell on tour -- electing to rest their two key backs -- and Adam Hastings withdrew because of injury before their departure for South America, so Blair Kinghorn will be employed at stand off, partnering with Ali Price.

Rory Hutchinson starts at fullback, with his last appearance coming in 2020 when he came off the bench against Italy.

After missing the majority of the Six Nations, having picked up an injury against England, Lions prop Rory Sutherland is named on the bench.

Argentina coach Michael Cheika, meanwhile, says he has had to try and reign in his new charges this week and tone down the ferocity of their training amid the excitement of a first home test in almost three years.

"Everyone has been so excited to be playing back in Argentina that they want to train so hard that I have had to try and hold them back a little bit," Cheika told a news conference on Thursday.

"But we know that we're building for something towards the World Cup next year. We're starting what we think will be take us to the top level.

"We know that on Saturday, we won't be perfect. There's many things to work on and many new things, but I've seen very good intent. They want to learn and they want to play rugby the way we are hoping to play."

Cheika, former coach of his native Australia, had been assistant coach with the Pumas last year under Mario Ledesma and was appointed coach when Ledesma quit in February.

But he has not had much time with the team and said picking his first side had been difficult.

"It was a tough task, there were a lot of players who have put up their hands. It was about trying to select thinking about our focus for the game," Cheika added.

"And our focus for the game that hasn't changed since the first time we spoke - scrum, line out, maul, ruck, defence. That's where we start to build and then we can evolve our game from here. Tip: Argentina by 5.