Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Which June test series offers the most?

Wales and the All Blacks clash in three tests next month. Photo / Getty
Wales and the All Blacks clash in three tests next month. Photo / Getty

Judgment day about June. Cast your eyes across the test rugby schedule on offer in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Japan as northern hemisphere sides pick up their kit and head into the final battles of their season.

Which of those battles boils your interest, which offers a level of intrigue above other motives for tuning in - the All Blacks hosting Wales, the Wallabies series with England, the Springbok duels with Ireland or Japan's chance to pit themselves against Scotland.

My spiritual attention and national fascination will be tuned into the All Blacks with particular interest on the backline the selectors pick and how those changes measure up in substance and methods against what's gone before. The All Blacks bring a lift in importance, a rush of national essence and inquisition.

Put that three test series with Wales up against the time differences and a lack of connection to the tests in South Africa and Japan, and it's no contest.

However there's more of a challenge across the Ditch.

The promotion will go ballistic with Dirty Digger Eddie Jones and his champion Six Nations side arriving to challenge Michael Cheika's mob who trounced the White Orcs 33-13 to dispatch them to the last World Cup slaughterhouse. England were bullied and outclassed across Twickers.

That anguish continued until Jones grabbed top dollar and the squad and took them to Six Nations glory. Much of it wasn't pretty but the results were gold for those who support the white livery.

Jones has picked his squad for the trip to Australia and declared the visit will be a failure if they don't claim the series.

"We want to be the top team in the world and I don't think we should have any embarrassment about saying that. Therefore, if we go to Australia, we should expect to win the series," Jones said.

"We have to be physical, unrelenting and absolutely in their faces. We have got to make their life so uncomfortable. We can't allow them to get into any sort of tempo or groove."

Only eight players who started England's World Cup loss to the Wallabies, have been picked for this trip. Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs began in the backline with Chris Robshaw, Joe Launchbury and Dan Coles in the pack.

When Cheika names his squad today, five from that RWC test are unlikely picks - Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, Kane Douglas and Sekope Kepu-because they are injured or playing offshore.

There are more juicy threads about England's trip down-under and their quest to reverse the results chart which shows they have only won three times in 53 years in Australia. And the Jones v Cheika spruikfests will not be an undercard sideshow.

There is an ongoing appeal about Wales chances of cracking a 62-year-old losing stretch against the All Blacks but for once, it's not quite as appealing as the test rugby across the Ditch.

- NZ Herald

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