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by Adam Clark May 04, 2016

It’s almost time for European finals and league play-offs, and with that, the conclusion of the northern hemisphere domestic season. However, it’s not the end for the international stars, with the Home Nations all jetting off around the globe for summer tours. England and Wales head down to the Southern Hemisphere to take on Australia and New Zealand respectively, whilst Ireland visit South Africa and Scotland are off to the Land of the Rising Sun with a two-match tour of Japan. As we haven’t seen any of the Southern Hemisphere sides in action since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we have picked out one player from each nation who has been impressing in 2016’s Super Rugby to date… New Zealand v Wales 1st Test - Eden Park, Auckland, 11th June 2nd Test - Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 18th June 3rd Test - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 25th June Damian McKenzie, Chiefs At just 1.75m and 80kgs, the 21-year-old McKenzie’s stature belies his on-field presence. His early form has been phenomenal, leading the way in tries scored (7), defenders beaten (41), metres made (724), points scored (120) and carries (120). The Chiefs have clearly been impressed as they have just signed him up until the end of 2018. There has even been talk in New Zealand that Ben Smith may be moved back to wing to accommodate McKenzie, although that is an easier option than it might have been, given Nehe Milner-Skudder is currently injured. Wales great Phil Bennett recently warned Warren Gatland against making the New Zealand trip a development tour, believing young players will be "torn to shreds" by the All Blacks, and based on the form of the Super Rugby sides, it’s hard to disagree. Australia v England 1st Test - Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 11th June 2nd Test - AAMI Park, Melbourne, 18th June 3rd Test - Allianz Stadium, Sydney, 25th June Israel Folau, Waratahs Hardly a new name on the international scene, but Folau has recently moved from wing/fullback to centre. Having recently broken Lote Tuqiri's all-time Waratahs’ try-scoring record, the Waratahs back has received plenty of praise Down Under. Folau said earlier this year that his preferred position was still at full back, but his exposure to the 13 jersey appears to be changing his mind. Michael Cheika may well fancy him to face up against Jonathan Joseph next month. South Africa v Ireland 1st Test - DHL Newlands, Cape Town, 11th June 2nd Test - Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, 18th June 3rd Test - Nelson Mandela Bat Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 25th June Pieter-Steph du Toit, Stormers Most non-Super Rugby followers would assume that the Springboks second row slots are already taken, such was the form of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager in the Rugby World Cup. Whilst that is probably true of Etzebeth’s no. 4 jersey, the same can’t be said of the no. 5 shirt. Du Toit - who has eight Springbok caps, but only one start - has been in sensational form for the Stormers and stepped up to the plate again against the Waratahs at the weekend. New coach Allister Coetzee is definitely going to have a big call to make against the Irish. Japan v Scotland 1st Test - Toyota Stadium, Aichi, 18th June 2nd Test - Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, 25th June Harumichi Tatekawa, Sunwolves The Sunwolves have been the whipping boys everyone expected - their only win to date coming in the ninth round of fixtures, and a points difference of -142. In reality, most Japanese players internationals will come from the the nation’s domestic Top League, but Harumichi Tatekawa should be involved against the Scots in June. Tatekawa moved one position in to inside centre against the Jaguares and pulled the strings with Tusi Pisi as the Tokyo side reordered their first win. Scotland’s defence will have to be alert to the dangers posed by a running Japan backline. With a huge range of international rugby shirts now reduced, it's the perfect time to pick up your discounted rugby shirt at rugbystuff.com and follow your country on the 2016 summer tours.



Adam Clark
Adam Clark

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