Fixtures, team news and how to watch on TV

New Zealand go into this year’s Rugby Championship as the reigning champions, but, potentially for the first time since the Rugby Championship began in 2012, they are not favourites.

They won last year’s tournament with a game to spare but, after losing to South Africa in the final round, New Zealand have had a disappointing 12 months. Last month’s home series defeat to Ireland, who had previously never won in New Zealand, means that the All Blacks go into the Rugby Championship having lost four of their last five matches. Head coach Ian Foster probably needs a good tournament to stay in the job.

He has to navigate a difficult start though, with two away matches against world champions South Africa. While the Springboks did not have the best of competitions last year as they finished third, and were not at their best in the home series win against Wales in July, New Zealand’s poor form and both matches against the All Blacks being at home gives South Africa the edge.

Australia impressed in the Rugby Championship last year, beating South Africa twice. With both their games against the Boks at home they could pose a problem again, but like New Zealand the Wallabies have not had the best year, having only won one game since.

Argentina did not win a single game in last year’s Rugby Championship. Coming off a home series win against Scotland last month, Michael Cheika’s Pumas will hope for an improvement this year.

How to watch the matches on TV

(All times BST)

Round 1

  • South Africa v New Zealand (Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela) 4.05pm on Saturday, August 6 – Sky Sports
  • Argentina v Australia (Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza) 8.10pm on Saturday, August 6 – Sky Sports

Round 2

  • South Africa v New Zealand (Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg) 4.05pm on Saturday, August 6 – Sky Sports
  • Argentina v Australia (Estadio Bicentenario, San Juan) 8.10pm on Saturday, August 13 – Sky Sports

Round 3

  • Australia v South Africa (Adelaide Oval, Adelaide) 6.30am on Saturday, August 27 – Sky Sports
  • New Zealand v Argentina (Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch) 8.45am on Saturday, August 27 – Sky Sports

Round 4

  • New Zealand v Argentina (FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton) 8.05am on Saturday, September 3 – Sky Sports
  • Australia vs South Africa (Allianz Stadium, Sydney) 10.35am on Saturday, September 3 – Sky Sports

Round 5

  • Australia vs New Zealand (Marvel Stadium, Melbourne) 10.45am on Thursday, September 15 – Sky Sports
  • Argentina vs South Africa (Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires) 8.10pm on Saturday, September 17 – Sky Sports

Round 6

  • New Zealand vs Australia (Eden Park, Auckland) 8.05am on Saturday, September 24 – Sky Sports
  • South Africa vs Argentina (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban) 4.05pm on Saturday, September 24 – Sky Sports

What’s the latest team news?

By Charlie Morgan

Michael Hooper, Australia’s inspirational captain, has withdrawn from the squad to face Argentina, saying he is not in the right mindset to play.

The back-rower, a mainstay of the recent series loss to England who was aimed to win a 122nd cap for the Wallabies on Saturday, will return home rather than feature in the Rugby Championship fixture in Mendoza.

James Slipper will lead the team with Fraser McReight promoted to start at openside flanker against a Pumas outfit coached by Michael Cheika.

“While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time,” said Hooper. “My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfill my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset.”

Rennie explained that no prior warning signs had been evident to the group before Hooper, still just 30, approached Australia’s team doctor, Sharron Flahive, on Thursday.

“How he trained and how he contributed around, around the team, around leadership, was excellent,” Rennie said of Hooper, who made his Test debut a decade ago in 2012.

“But clearly he’s been struggling a bit and masking that pretty well. That came to a head last night and he was brave enough to call Sharron and have a chat with her, which then involved [team manager] Chris Webb and myself to get an understanding of where he’s at.

“The concern is all around its wellbeing. It was an easy decision to let him go home, and he’ll get plenty of support around.”

Hooper addressed his team-mates on Friday and will fly back to Australia with hooker Dave Porecki, who has been ruled out by injury.

“I think he’s felt he’s been able to suppress things over the past handful of weeks and so we certainly weren’t aware of anything,” Rennie added of Hooper.

“He’s such a professional. He was able to get on and do his job, and he addressed the team today, which took enormous amount of courage, to let them know that he’s not OK. He felt it was best for himself and for the team that he heads home.

“It’s not uncommon in life, is it? It’s a cross-section of society and often men will say bugger all and suffer in silence. As I said before, it took a lot of courage for him to address the group so a huge amount of respect from everyone and a respect that we want to get him home and get as much support around him as we can.”

Other selection news

Australia also have Samu Kerevi ruled out for the entire Championship, after the center sustained a knee injury while playing sevens at the Commonwealth Games. Hooker Dave Porecki will miss the match against Argentina after being ruled out with a concussion, while props Angus Bell and Scott Sio will also be unavailable due to injury. However, fly-half Quade Cooper and winger Jordan Petaia have recovered from their respective calf and concussion injuries, while lock Darcy Swain is available following his suspension.

Argentina can recall experienced fly-half Nicolás Sanchez, who got injured in the first test against Scotland, and scrum-half Tomás Cubelli to a team that is getting to grips with new former Australia coach Chieka’s style.

There are four changes for New Zealand from the third test against Ireland. Lock Brodie Retallick is unavailable due to a fractured cheekbone, so Scott Barrett takes his place. Winger Sevu Reece, hooker Codie Taylor, and prop Angus Ta’avao all started in Wellington, but drop from the match-day 23 entirely.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Bower.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea.

South Africa have made three changes from their third test against Wales. Kurt-Lee Arendse replaces Cheslin Kolbe on the wing, who is recovering from a broken jaw. Faf de Klerk comes in at scrum half for Jaden Hendrikse, and Malcolm Marx starts at hooker over Bongi Mbonambi.

South Africa: Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Willie le Roux.

When is the final round?

The final round is on Saturday September 24. New Zealand hosts Australia in Auckland, while Argentina travel to Durban to face South Africa.

Last year New Zealand had already wrapped up the Rugby Championship before the final round, after beating South Africa 19-17 in the penultimate round. However, the Springboks would beat the All Blacks 31-29 a week later to end their campaign on a high.

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