Josh Inglis says he would sacrifice any personal success if it meant Australia claim glory at the upcoming T20 World Cup.

The wicketkeeper has been called up to represent his country for the first time ahead of the first edition of this tournament for five years, with Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosting.

Uncapped, English-born Inglis has been tipped to play a key role for Australia and he was thrilled to get the call-up after a stunning run of form in domestic cricket.

"It was pure elation really," he said. "I was in the UK at the time, in The Hundred competition, so to get the call was amazing, gave me a huge boost, I'm just really proud.

"[A perfect tournament] looks like winning the World Cup. When you come to a tournament, your aim is to win, if you're thinking about personal success you're probably in the wrong game.

"I would be more than happy to score zero runs for the tournament and lift the trophy. Everyone wants success but the goal is to lift that trophy.

"There is probably not too much expectation on me so I don't think I can worry about that or the fact that I haven't got the international experience. 

"I've played against a lot of international players in the Blast and The Hundred, I can definitely lean on those. 

"Once you get into the heat of the battle, you just get into it and come back to what's natural to you. If given the opportunity, I'm really looking forward to that."

Inglis is yet to discuss his role with coach Justin Langer but believes he will bat in the middle order if given the chance to play.

He starred in the T20 Blast for Leicestershire this year, scoring the most runs (531) of any player in England's domestic T20 competition. 

Per Stats Perform data, Inglis scored a boundary once every 3.5 balls faced, the third most frequent of any player (min. six innings) in the campaign (behind Alex Hales – 3.2 and Will Jacks – 3.4). 

In that time, he hit 63 fours, a tournament high and almost double the tally of his next best team-mate (Arron Lilley – 32).

Only Hales had a higher strike rate of the top-five run tournament scorers than his 175.8

Asked if his form in England had given him a boost, Inglis added: "Absolutely. It was one of the reasons I was keen to get over there, to play in different conditions and test my game in different conditions. 

"As you see sometimes in the UK, with lots of cricket, the wickets do get a bit tired. 

"So playing on slower wickets over there, I can really take that to the World Cup and playing on some of the slower pitches here."

Inglis has also been a leading performer in the Big Bash League.

In the 2020-21 BBL, Inglis logged an Opta batting dot-ball percentage of just 26.8 per cent. Among players to face at least 60 balls in the most recent edition only Jordan Silk (23.9) had a better rate.

Across the last two BBL campaigns Inglis has the third-highest strike rate (146.6) of the 25 players to score 500+ runs.

Inglis' strength against spin has been cited as a key reason for his selection for the T20 tournament, which gets under way on Sunday with the first round.

"I really enjoy batting against spin," he added. "I see it as a good challenge to score off every ball and try and manipulate the field to where you want to get it.

"It's really good fun, really enjoy it and easier on flatter wickets. We'll see what the conditions will be like here, it's going to be a challenge going up against some of the best spinners in the world."

Australia begin their campaign against South Africa on October 23 in what will be the first match of the Super 12 stage.

Australia's perfect record in World Cup 2022 qualifying was ended in a 2-1 defeat to Japan on Tuesday.

The Socceroos had won all 11 games on the road to Qatar – setting a record in the process – and each of their last 12 games stretching back into the last campaign.

But Ao Tanaka's early strike in Saitama and a late own goal from Aziz Behich, either side of Ajdin Hrustic's leveller, inflicted a first competitive defeat on Australia since January 2019.

Graham Arnold's side could now see top spot in Group B relinquished to Saudi Arabia, who play later on Thursday. Only the top two sides will qualify automatically for the World Cup.

Japan entered the game unbeaten in seven meetings with Australia and they were ahead inside eight minutes when Tanaka drilled a low shot into the bottom-left corner.

Australia went close to equalising before half-time as Adam Taggart's shot was tipped onto the upright and Aaron Mooy's effort was blocked in front of goal from the follow-up.

The visitors then had a penalty overturned as the officials felt Hidemasa Morita's challenge on Hrustic was outside the box, but the fouled player still made Japan pay as his powerful free-kick crashed in off the underside off the crossbar.

But it was Japan who snatched a winner with five minutes remaining.

Mat Ryan could only parry substitute Takuma Asano's deflected shot into the air and Behich, in an attempt to clear the ball from under the crossbar, turned it into his own net.

England's players are "desperate" to travel to Australia for the Ashes after the five-match series was conditionally approved by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), says all-rounder Chris Woakes.

The ECB confirmed on Friday that the tour – due to start at The Gabba on December 8 – would go ahead "subject to several critical conditions" being met regarding travel, quarantine and 'bubble' arrangements.

Captain Joe Root and deputy Jos Buttler are among the players that had previously stated they were not ready to commit to the series due to uncertainty over COVID-19 restrictions.

But while still holding some reservations concerning the logistical side of the tour, Woakes is looking forward to travelling to Australia after being named in England's 17-man group on Sunday.

"There is no player that does not want to be part of the Ashes," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Behind the scenes there are still things being ironed out between all sorts of levels. I think the players are relatively relaxed and the guys are desperate to go.

"But we want to be under the best sort of conditions possible so we can still live our lives outside of cricket."

 

Woakes, who has made 39 Test appearances for England, is one of five players to have been named in both the Ashes and T20 World Cup squads.

While the focus is largely on the showdown with Australia, Woakes will not let that influence his preparations for the World Cup, which begins later this week.
 
"It's exciting that there is an Ashes series around the corner, but there is a small thing of the World Cup first, so obviously I have my eyes firmly on that," he told reporters.

"We have a T20 World Cup to focus on and prep for and as soon as that is done and dusted our attention will shift. 

"We have no choice – you don't want to get to the end of a World Cup and think 'I wasn’t fully engaged'.

"We have to give this our full attention – what is going on with the Ashes is on the back burner and with the people who are making the decisions, kind of dealing with that on our behalf. You can't get too fixated on that.

"It is important we focus on the here and now. It is a great opportunity to win some silverware for your country. The Ashes stuff will have to be parked."

Ben Stokes was not included in the England squad for the Ashes tour of Australia.

The all-rounder was expected to be left out of the 17-man group after having a second operation on his broken index finger.

Stokes, who sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April, announced in July he was taking a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and allow his finger to recover.

Sam Curran, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture to his lower back in the past week, was also omitted from head coach Chris Silverwood's squad for the five-match series in Australia, which starts on December 8 in Brisbane.

Fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Olly Stone remain absent as they recover from injuries, but Stuart Broad is selected after suffering a torn calf muscle during England's home Test series with India in July.

Joe Root will be captain and Jos Buttler vice-captain of a side consisting entirely of players previously capped at Test level.

 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) only confirmed on Friday that the tour would be going ahead amid possible concerns around coronavirus restrictions in Australia.

While "several critical conditions" must still be met for the Ashes to proceed, the ECB said "positive discussions" were ongoing and that "it is hoped matters will be resolved in due course".

Silverwood said he was "delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour" despite the likes of Root and Buttler previously expressing doubts.

"A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer," he said.

"This is why we play and coach to be involved in iconic series like this. More than half of our squad haven't featured in an Ashes tour before, which means we will be fresh and looking to embrace the cricket and the excitement of touring one of the best places in the world.

"I believe we have selected a well-balanced squad with options in all areas and a blend of youth and experience. There is real competition for places and a genuine desire to work hard and compete, aiming to create some history."

England are looking to regain the urn after it was retained by Australia following a 2-2 series draw in 2019.

England squad for the Ashes:

Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has conditionally approved for The Ashes tour to go ahead in Australia.

England captain Joe Root and his deputy Jos Buttler are among the players who stated they were not ready to commit to the five-match series due to uncertainty over coronavirus restrictions.

Bubble fatigue and quarantine periods for the players' families are issues that have been raised, leading to doubts over whether the five-match Test series – due to start at The Gabba on December 8 – will go ahead.

The ECB on Friday confirmed England will tour Australia, providing "several critical conditions" are met before they board the plane.

"Over recent weeks we have made excellent progress in moving forward on the England men's Ashes Tour," an ECB statement said.

"To facilitate further progress and allow a squad to be selected, The ECB Board has met today and given its approval for the tour to go ahead.

"This decision is subject to several critical conditions being met before we travel.

"We look forward to the ongoing assistance from Cricket Australia in resolving these matters in the coming days."

Australia captain Tim Paine earlier stated he expects England to bring a "really strong" side to Australia, with only "one or two" players opting out of the tour.

"I'm hearing a lot of their players will commit," the wicketkeeper told SEN Radio.

"There might be one or two that don't, but I think we'll see a really strong England side come out here."

Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison last month warned England will not benefit from any "special deals" regarding quarantine rules when they arrive in the country.

Paine says he has spoken to the prime minister as Australia wait for confirmation that England will make the long journey to try to regain the urn.

"He was keen to find out what the sticking points might be from a player's perspective," said Paine of his conversations with Morrison.

"I shared a few text messages with him. He loves his cricket."

Tim Paine expects England to bring a "really strong" team side to Australia for the Ashes with only "one or two" players opting out of the tour.

Captain Joe Root and his deputy Jos Buttler are among the England players who stated they were not ready to commit to the five-match series due to uncertainty over coronavirus restrictions.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is expected to confirm the tour will go ahead following a meeting on Friday, a day after chairman Ian Watmore stepped down.

Australia skipper Paine insisted the Ashes will be starting at The Gabba on December 8 regardless of whether Root decides to travel.

Paine on Friday revealed he has been informed that England will not be hugely depleted.

"I'm hearing a lot of their players will commit," the wicketkeeper told SEN Radio.

"There might be one or two that don't, but I think we'll see a really strong England side come out here."

Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison last month warned England will not benefit from any "special deals" regarding quarantine rules when they arrive in the country.

Paine says he has spoken to the prime minister as Australia wait for confirmation that England will make the long journey to try to regain the urn.

"He was keen to find out what the sticking points might be from a player's perspective," said Paine of his conversations with Morrison.

"I shared a few text messages with him. He loves his cricket."

Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu have been recalled to the Australia squad for their upcoming tour of the northern hemisphere.

The France-based trio were on Friday named in a 37-man party to face Japan at Oita Stadium on October 23 before travelling to Europe to take on Scotland, England and Wales next month.

Skelton has not played for the Wallabies since 2016, but the towering La Rochelle lock is set to add to his 18 caps.

Fellow second-rower Arnold, who plies his trade with Toulouse in the Top 14, and Stade Francais hooker Latu have not played for their country since the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Pone Fa'amausili and Connal McInerney are the uncapped quartet in the squad.

Japan-based trio Quade Cooper, Sean McMahon and Samu Kerevi – who has recovered from an ankle injury – were included on the back of Australia's second-placed finish behind New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

Dave Rennie's side have won four consecutive games, seeing off world champions South Africa and Argentina twice.

Head coach Rennie said: "Firstly we're extremely grateful to be able to represent Australia on the world stage in the current environment and that's something that's not lost on this group.

"We've been building as a squad over the past 18 months or so and to get a chance to head to the northern hemisphere and test ourselves against four really strong International sides is a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves."

 

Australia squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Angus Bell, Quade Cooper, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa'amausili, Folau Fainga'a, Lalakai Foketi, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper (captain), Len Ikitau, Feleti Kaitu'u, Andrew Kellaway, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tolu Latu, Rob Leota, Tate McDermott, Connal McInerney, Sean McMahon, James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Lachlan Swinton, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Tom Wright.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes is highly unlikely to feature in The Ashes squad in December after having a second operation on his broken left index finger.

Stokes sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April but returned to action with Durham in June.

The 30-year-old also played through the pain barrier in July to captain a second-string ODI side to a series whitewash over visiting Pakistan after an initial coronavirus outbreak ruled out the majority of the regular squad.

However, before the India Test series later that month, Stokes announced he would take a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and to allow his finger to fully recover.

On Thursday, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) provided another update on the all-rounder's injury progress.

"England all-rounder Ben Stokes has undergone a second operation on Monday 4th October to address ongoing issues with the finger that he injured in the IPL in April," the statement said.

"Stokes had two screws and scar tissue removed from the index finger of his left hand. 

"He will now undergo an intensive period of rehabilitation for the next four weeks under the supervision of the ECB's medical team."

 

Stokes is already set to miss the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which starts on October 17, but the operation puts further doubt on his return in time for The Ashes.

His presence with the touring party in Australia – who will host England if agreements on coronavirus-related bubble issues can be agreed – was already doubtful but the operation makes the likelihood of an appearance even slimmer.

The all-rounder will be sorely missed by Chris Silverwood's tourists if so, with Stokes averaging 38.37 against Australia, whom he scored 135 not out against in one of cricket's most famous knocks at Headingley in 2019.

Australia captain Aaron Finch has confirmed he will open the batting with the out-of-form David Warner at the T20 World Cup.

Warner has made only two runs in as many innings for bottom side Sunrisers Hyderabad since the Indian Premier League resumed in the UAE, finding himself dropped for a second time in the tournament.

The 34-year-old lost the captaincy before the competition was halted in India due to the coronavirus pandemic and has not played a T20 for his country for over a year.

Finch expects to be ready for Australia's opening game of the T20 World Cup against South Africa in Dubai on October 23 as he recovers from knee surgery and the skipper has given his backing to Warner.

Asked if Warner will be his opening partner, he replied: "Yep, absolutely. He's one of the best players to ever play the game for Australia.

"I've got no doubt that his preparation, while he would love to be playing for Hyderabad no doubt, I know that he's still training away. He'll be good to go."

 

Finch went under the knife in August and has stepped up his rehabilitation with the World Cup fast approaching.

"Over the last couple of weeks my recovery has progressed really well so it's looking more and more likely that I'll be fit and ready to go for them," he said.

"And just in terms of the intensity that I've been able to train, the amount of accelerations, decelerations, putting load through my knee, that's all really positive. So, yeah, I've got no issues.

"I had probably my biggest session in terms of fielding, changing direction, and all that stuff with batting involved as well so that's gone as well as it could. I had a meeting with the surgeon yesterday and he was really happy with where it's at."

Lockdown restrictions have hampered Australia's preparations, but Finch is confident that should not be too much of an issue.

He said: "Training indoors or training just in the nets is no comparison obviously to game intensity so the two warm-up games and the lead-in to the World Cup is going to be really crucial.

"We get out of quarantine, I think there's three days of practice scheduled, and then two warm-up games, so they're going to be really important to get guys up to speed as quick as possible.

"But I've got a lot of confidence in the experience of the group. We've got guys who have come off long lay-offs before. We've got guys who have come off injuries before, and it's not really all that much different when you're trying to get yourself up to speed quickly.

"I think that will play into their hands and might allow us to be a little bit fresher, to be honest."

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will decide this week whether to go ahead with the upcoming Ashes Tour after communicating Cricket Australia's proposed arrangements with players.

The first Test of the Ashes is due to begin on December 8 at the Gabba in Brisbane, though the full length of the Tour is expected to be 11 weeks, and during that time the England team will have to live under restricted conditions in an attempt to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

Australia has been one of the most restrictive countries in the world during the pandemic, with strict border rules in force since March 2020.

Its international borders are set to reopen in November, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested last month that England will not benefit from any "special deals" regarding quarantine rules if they are to travel to Australia.

Nearly 57 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated, while 82.5 per cent of Brits are, though all state and international borders are not expected to be open until regional and national vaccination rates hit 80 per cent.

With players and management informed over the weekend of what life will look like for them in Australia, the ECB board is set to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the trip by the end of the week.

An ECB statement read: "Over the weekend we have been talking to England men's players and management to provide them with the latest information about the proposed arrangements for this winter's scheduled Ashes Tour.

"We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving.

"With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the Tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best.

"We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.

"Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the Tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance."

A hat-trick from in-form Andrew Kellaway saw Australia close out their Rugby Championship campaign with a 32-17 victory over Argentina on Saturday.

Kellaway moved onto seven tries for the 2021 tournament in a one-sided contest on the Gold Coast as the Wallabies followed up last week's 27-8 win in style.

Dave Rennie's men have now won four Tests in a row for the first time since November 2017, while Argentina are on a six-match losing run, their worst such streak in two years.

Quade Cooper's 10th-minute penalty set Australia on their way against an Argentina side missing six players due to an unauthorised trip to Byron Bay.

Tomas Lavanini's repeated infringements in the lineout earned him a yellow card and Folau Fainga'a darted over for the first try from the resulting play.

Fainga'a and Rob Valetini combined to free Kellaway for his first try of the contest, with Samu Kerevi bursting through after patient build-up to make it 20-3 after the break, Emiliano Boffelli having kicked a penalty.

The Wallabies by now were in cruise control, Kellaway finishing with aplomb after more good build-up, and his hat-trick try in the same corner was served on a plate by Len Ikitau's clever lay-off.

A weary Pumas side had something to celebrate when debutant Thomas Gallo powered through near the posts, as Australia brought on 38-year-old Greg Holmes – now the oldest player to feature for the Wallabies since World War II – for his first cap since 2016.

Gallo got a late second after a pile-on at the try line to make the scores a little more respectable.

Rennie's men showing great promise

Kellaway, who now has more than twice the number of tries of anyone else at these championships, was a good advert for Australia's renewed vibrancy under Rennie.

This is the first time they have won four Rugby Championship matches in a row and the third Test in 2021 in which they have scored at least 30 points.

Little pride for Pumas

Argentina, meanwhile, are on their worst losing run since a 10-game span from September 2018 to September 2019 and sit bottom of the standings on zero and with a points difference of minus 135 from their six matches.

They have also taken just one win from their past 13 Tests against Australia.

Tim Paine says the Ashes will go ahead as scheduled regardless of whether Joe Root and other key England players travel to Australia.

Root this week stated that he is "desperate" to do battle with fierce rivals Australia, but the England captain is not ready to commit to the tour until there is more clarity over coronavirus restrictions.

Jos Buttler is among the other England players who have made it clear they may pull out if their families are not allowed to head to Australia.

Talks between Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board over what protocols may be in place are ongoing, with players having already spent long periods in bio-secure bubbles at home and overseas.

Skipper Paine says he will lead his side out at The Gabba on December 8 come what may.

"The Ashes are going ahead - the first Test is on December 8 whether Joe's here or not," the wicketkeeper told SEN Hobart.

"They all want to come, there's no doubt about it.

"They're trying to get themselves the best possible conditions they can, but at the end of the day, we all are.

"It will be worked out above us and then they'll make a decision whether or not they'll get on that plane. There will be a squad of England players coming here for the first Test on December 8th."

Australia prime minister Scott Morrison last month warned England will not benefit from any "special deals" regarding quarantine rules when they arrive in the country.

Six Argentina players have been ruled out of facing Australia in the Rugby Championship on Saturday after making an unauthorised trip to Byron Bay.

Pablo Matera, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Socino and Sebastian Cancelliere were stopped at the state border when they attempted to return to their Gold Coast base from New South Wales on Wednesday.

Manager Lucas Chioccarelli and video analyst Rodrigo Martinez were also prevented from entering Queensland due to coronavirus rules.

The Argentine Rugby Union stated that the players will not be available to face the Wallabies in their final match of the tournament at Cbus Stadium this weekend.

Rugby Championship organiser SANZAAR said in a statement: "SANZAAR has informed Argentina Rugby that all members of this group are now ineligible to participate further in The Rugby Championship as they have breached tournament rules.

"SANZAAR is very disappointed that such a breach has occurred given the clear rules that are in place to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff, and compliance with all relevant health orders."

The Pumas are bottom of the table, having failed to pick up a point from five matches.

Meanwhile, Greg Holmes will become the oldest player to feature for opponents Australia since World War II at the age of 38 after the prop was named among the replacements by Dave Rennie.

Darcy Swain and Pete Samu come into the side, while back-rower Sean McMahon will also start on the bench as the Wallabies eye a fourth successive win to secure second place behind champions New Zealand.

 

Australia: Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Andrew Kellaway, Quade Cooper, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Michael Hooper (captain) Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Greg Holmes, Matt Philip, Sean McMahon, Jake Gordon, James O'Connor, Tom Wright.

Argentina: Juan Cruz Mallia, Matias Moroni, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Rodrigo Martinez, Julian Montoya (captain), Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni.

Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Francisco Gorrissen, Gonzalo Garcia, Domingo Miotti, Mateo Carreras.

Andrew Kellaway scored his fourth try of the Rugby Championship as in-form Australia beat Argentina 27-8 to go second in the table on Saturday.

The Wallabies have a runners-up spot behind champions New Zealand in their sights with one match against the Pumas to play after scoring three tries in their first ever Test in Townsville, moving above South Africa after they were beaten by the All Blacks.

Emiliano Boffelli dragged a penalty wide before Reece Hodge burst through a tackle after throwing a dummy and applied the finish following a swift side-step.

Hodge's early opening try came after a powerful run from the outstanding Samu Kerevi, who crashed over for a score of his own and Quade Cooper made it three successful kicks out of three to put the vibrant Wallabies 17-3 up at half-time following a penalty from Boffelli.

Julian Montoya touched down early in the second half at the back of a driving maul, but Boffelli missed the conversion and was also off target with another penalty.

James O'Connor sent a kick sailing through the posts after coming on for his first Test of the year while Marcos Kremer was in the sin-bin.

Replacement fly-half O'Connor set up Kellaway, the leading try-scorer in the tournament, for a simple finish nine minutes from time in another impressive showing from Dave Rennie's men.

Wallabies hitting their stride under Rennie

Australia, up to third in the rankings, were clearly brimming with confidence after beating world champions South Africa twice and they have won three consecutive Tests for the first time since November 2017 with head Dave Rennie making his mark.

The Pumas, on the other hand, have lost five in a row and have not scored more than 13 points in a game during that dismal run. The last time they went longer without scoring more than 15 points in a Test was a five-game stretch from March to August in 1990.

Kerevi causes havoc

The pace and power of centre Kerevi caused Argentina all sorts of problems.

Kerevi gained 90 metres with his 14 carries and beat six defenders in an all-action display.

New Zealand are on the brink of landing the Rugby Championship title ahead of their 100th Test against holders South Africa in Townsville on Saturday.

The All Blacks have been in a class of their own, taking maximum points from four matches to put one hand on the trophy and replace the world champions at the top of the rankings.

South Africa are smarting from back-to-back defeats to Australia, leaving them 10 points adrift of the leaders with two games against Ian Foster's side to play.

Australia are just a point behind the Springboks ahead of their clash with Argentina this weekend.

Here, we use Opta data to preview the double-header at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

 

NEW ZEALAND V SOUTH AFRICA

Form

There appears to be no stopping New Zealand at the moment, with their winning run standing at nine matches following back-to-back defeats of Argentina.

The last time the All Blacks enjoyed a longer winning streak was in October 2016, when they completed a run of 18 on the spin.

South Africa, on the other hand, are two without a win and have not had a worse run since losing four in a row from October to November five years ago.

 

 


Ones to watch

Akira Ioane is one of eight New Zealand players to be facing South Africa for the first time. Starting at blindside flanker on Saturday, his potency in the Springbok half could be key – only Jordie Barrett (nine) has beaten more defenders in opposition territory than Ioane (eight) in the 2021 competition.

Lood de Jager is back following concussion to reunite with Eben Etzebeth in the Springbok second row. They, along with Argentina's Guido Petti, are the only players to have stolen multiple lineouts at this year's tournament.

AUSTRALIA V ARGENTINA

Form

Australia are on a high after two impressive wins over South Africa, playing some entertaining rugby in a 30-17 bonus-point win in Brisbane last weekend.

Argentina are rooted to the foot of the table without a point from four matches, with a points difference of minus 101.

Each of the last two Tests between these nations ended in a draw. Only once in Test history have any tier one nations drawn three in a row (England vs France from February 1959 to February 1961).

Ones to watch

Australia captain Michael Hooper tends to enjoy facing Argentina: his most recent five home Tests against the Pumas have yielded a personal haul of four tries and one assist.

Argentina's best hope of springing a surprise could rest on the shoulders of Marcos Kremer, who is the only player in this championship to have registered more than 30 in both carries (31) and tackles (48). Another big showing from flanker Kremer might give the South American side a sniff.

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