Autumn International Preview

This article was originally published in the Ulster vs Munster official match programme on October 29, 2010.

The excitement is starting to build ahead of Ireland’s Autumn International series, which kicks off in Dublin next Saturday and Jacqueline Purse looks ahead to the games. 

Ireland’s home games are now at the Aviva Stadium

The series will see the team face four difficult, yet enthralling fixtures against South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina in the newly-built Aviva Stadium. 

The stadium will be hosting the international matches for the first time since November 2006, when Ireland defeated the Pacific Islands at the final international match to be held at the old Landsdowne Road Stadium.

To mark the special occasion of the first international at the Aviva, South Africa have waived the unique rugby tradition where, if there is a clash of colours, the visiting team wears its home jersey. This will allow the Ireland team to wear their famous green jersey for the fixture. 

Ireland have a tough series ahead of them as they get ready to face the best rugby teams in the world and below we take a look at the upcoming opposition and the danger men to watch.

South Africa

South Africa is the first side to face Ireland on 6thNovember and it promises to be a thrilling encounter. When the two sides met at Croke Park last year, thousands of supporters were treated to a tense game which remained close until the final whistle. Ireland emerged triumphant, beating the current World Cup champions 15 – 10. Despite a disappointing Tri-Nations campaign, the Springboks are emerging a stronger side and will be out to prove a point against Ireland. 

Players to watch

Victor Matfield is one of the Springboks’ powerful locks. He has made over 100 appearances for South Africa and has been handed the captaincy for their end-of-year tour. He is excellent in the line-out, causing disruption for the opposition and this proved to be influential in the Springboks’ success during the 2007 World Cup. He was crowned the International Rugby Board’s Player of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 and has captained the Springboks on numerous occasions. 

Morné Steyn plays flyhalf for the Boks and made his debut in 2009. Since then he has continued to be a real asset to his side and was named Player’s Player of the Year in 2009. He currently holds the record for the most consecutive kicks at goal at 38 successful attempts, overtaking Scotland’s Chris Paterson with 36.

Samoa

Samoa will be viewed as the underdogs for the Guinness Series having lost three out of their four previous fixtures with Ireland, yet the Samoans are currently on fantastic form. In June 2010, they participated in the Pacific Nations Cup and defeated Japan, Fiji and Tonga to be crowned the PNC champions. The 09/10 IRB Sevens World Series also saw the side finish first, where they beat teams such as New Zealand, Australia and England. Watch out for the team performing their traditional Samoan challenge – the Siva Tau – before each game!

Players to watch

Alesana Tuilagi is a key figure for his national team, having made a number of appearances for Samoa since his debut in 2022 when he played against Fiji. He was included in the Pacific Islanders tour to Europe in 2006 and played a vital role in Samoa’s 2007 World Cup success. Alesana plays his club rugby for English side Leicester Tigers, where he has secured a handful of tries already this season.

New Zealand

Following this year’s hugely successful Tri-Nations campaign, where they defeated the Springboks in three consecutive matches to claim their tenth victory in the competition, the All Blacks are currently ranked first in the world. They have also retained the Bledisloe Cup after defeating Australia in three out of their four meetings. The last time New Zealand and Ireland met was June 2010, when Ireland suffered a heavy 66-28 defeat at the hands of the home side.

Players to watch

Richie McCaw is not only New Zealand’s captain for the Guinness Series, but he is often referred to as the best openside flanker in the world. He is influential at the breakdown and possesses excellent handling skills to shine in the loose, making him a key figure for the All Blacks. Since 2004, McCaw has captained New Zealand 52 times, and he is the only player to have won the International Rugby Board’s Player of the Year award twice – in 2006 and 2009. 

Dan Carter is another prominent member of the All Blacks squad and, like Richie McCaw, is recognised as one of the top utility players in the game. His talent, skill and versatility allow him to play at flyhalf or inside centre. Carter made his debut for the All Blacks in 2003 and continues to possess a great threat to any team, with his ability to read the game well, kick accurately and get the backline moving. In the past he has been named IRB Player of the Year and has scored over 1,000 points for his national side. 

Argentina

Nicknamed ‘Los Pumas’, Argentina are considered one of the top rugby nations. In June, the team finished their annual summer tour with a win over longstanding rivals France. Ireland and Argentina last met in November 2008 where Ireland defeated the Pumas with a decisive 17 – 3 win at Croke Park, so the visitors will be working hard to ensure they can produce a win on this occasion. 

Players to watch

Felipe Contepomi has over 60 caps for his country and can play either flyhalf or centre. He moved to Toulon at the beginning of the 09/10 season, having spent six seasons with Leinster, where he scored over 1,200 points for the province. He currently has 16 caps for Toulon and continues to be a tough opponent. 

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