Every nation from the NatWest 6 Nations has now announced their squads for their respective summer tours.
Grand Slam champions Ireland head to Australia for a three-Test series, England travel to South Africa, Wales to Argentina – via Washington and a clash with the Springboks.
Elsewhere, Scotland head to the Americas to play USA, Canada and Argentina, Italy are off to Japan and France face a daunting trip to world champions New Zealand.
And with new faces called up, big names left behind and returning heroes recalled – we’ve summarised everything you need to know from all six countries squads. IRELAND 1979 was the last time Ireland claimed a win Down Under, but they will get three cracks at ending that run this summer against the Wallabies.
Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam champions have therefore named a near-full strength squad for the tour as they look to end a ten-Test losing run on Australian soil.
That means that Ireland’s heroes of the NatWest 6 Nations like Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray and Player of the Championship Jacob Stockdale are all included.
There are also two uncapped players included, fly-half Ross Byrne who has impressed for Leinster this season in Sexton’s absence and Scarlets lock Tadhg Beirne who will be joining Munster next season.
Beirne has been a breakout star for the last two seasons in the Guinness PRO14 and will be itching to lay down a marker on the international stage while another rewarded for impressive domestic form is Ulster scrum-half John Cooney who will hope to add to his solitary cap. ENGLAND There are all sorts of talking points to come out of England’s squad for their trip to South Africa.
Not least the promotion of Owen Farrell to captain in the absence of the injured Dylan Hartley.
Farrell took on the role during the Championship this year for the defeat in Paris against France, but will be the permanent skipper for the three Tests against the Springboks.
There are also returns for Billy Vunipola who missed the 2018 Championship through injury and Danny Cipriani who last appeared for England back in 2015 – the latter’s club form for Wasps forcing him back into contention.
There are also six new faces in Eddie Jones’ squad as Ben Earl, Jonny Hill, Dan Robson, Ben Spencer and Cameron Redpath join Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields who gets his first call-up before joining Wasps next season.
England have not won in South Africa since 2000 and if they are to end that run they will have to do so without the likes of Dan Cole, Danny Care, James Haskell and Jack Nowell who have all been rested. WALES While Ireland and England look at near-enough full strength, Warren Gatland has opted to rest a number of his Welsh stars with the 2019 World Cup in mind.
That means that British & Irish Lions like Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams will not be heading on tour this summer to Argentina.
Wales also face South Africa in Washington en route and Gatland has announced a fresh-faced squad that will be captained by Cory Hill and Ellis Jenkins.
There is some experience included with both Ross Moriarty and George North fit to tour, indeed Tomos Williams, Ashton Hewitt and Aaron Wainwright are the only uncapped players in the squad.
And Gatland will be hoping for a number of players to put their hands up and build on their impressive second-placed finish in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations. FRANCE Injuries have again forced Jacques Brunel’s hand somewhat as they head to New Zealand to take on the All Blacks.
But there are two exciting names for Les Bleus’ fans to welcome back into the fold in centre Wesley Fofana and scrum-half Morgan Parra.
The Clermont duo missed the entirety of this year’s Championship through injury but will be itching to hit the ground running against the world champions.
Guilhem Guirado has been rested meaning centre Mathieu Bastareaud is likely to captain the side – as he did against Wales in the final game of the 2018 Championship.
The rotating cast at half-back again continues for France, but it has been taken out of Brunel’s hand somewhat as injuries mount.
Maxime Machenaud, Antoine Dupont, Lionel Beauxis, Camille Lopez, Matthieu Jalibert and François Trinh-Duc are all injured and that means a lot of playmaking pressure falls on the shoulders of the likes of Anthony Belleau and Jules Plisson – who has not appeared for France since last summer’s tour to South Africa.
In-form flanker Wenceslas Lauret is also rested and Yoann Huget is injured but there are places for Teddy Thomas, as well as uncapped duo Félix Lambey and Pierre Bourgarit.
ITALY Conor O’Shea’s Italy went winless in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations but showed plenty of promise during the Championship.
Now they will look to turn that potential into performances this summer in Japan – even if they are without the totemic Sergio Parisse for the tour.
Also absent are Maxime Mbanda and Leonardo Sarto but there are recalls from Michele Campagnaro and Luca Morisi who have both returned from lengthy injury lay-offs.
The only uncapped player in the squad is Benetton prop Cherif Traore while Jake Polledri will be keen to add to his debut cap gained against Scotland in the final game of the Championship.
And with Wayne Smith now fully integrated into the coaching staff, O’Shea’s side will be hopeful of downing the Brave Blossoms. SCOTLAND Gregor Townsend, like Gatland, has opted to ring the changes for Scotland’s tour of the Americas where they will take on Argentina, Canada and USA.
That means the likes of Jonny Gray, Huw Jones, Ryan Wilson and Finn Russell are all rested as is skipper Greig Laidlaw while John Barclay was also rested and subsequently injured.
That means that Stuart McInally will lead a new-look squad that includes six uncapped players.
Three of them are in the pack in the form of Lewis Carmichael, Jamie Ritchie and Matt Fagerson while in the backs George Horne, Adam Hastings and James Lang all get the chance to impress.
While Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour are also left behind, Stuart Hogg – Player of the Championship in 2016 and 2017 – will travel as will experienced heads like Richie Gray and the recalled David Denton.
And much will be expected from youngsters like Blair Kinghorn and Magnus Bradbury who finished the season well for Edinburgh and with the former making his Test debut during the NatWest 6 Nations.