Watch Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina live on Sky Sports this Saturday

Watch Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina live on Sky Sports this Saturday

We hear from England captain Courtney Lawes, Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton, Scotland captain Grant Gilchrist and former Wales prop Adam Jones ahead of the weekend’s opening Tests of the summer tours, live on Sky Sports.

Lawes on “captaincy surprise” and one of England’s “most exciting teams”

England head coach Eddie Jones caused talking points with his team selection for England’s first Test against Australia in Perth, live on Sky Sports Action from 10.15am on Saturday (10.55am kick off), as Danny Care and Billy Vunipola returned after prolonged absences away, during which their international careers looked finished.

Another decision which perked interest was the captaincy, however. Owen Farrell has been Jones’ man since the exit and retirement of Dylan Hartley, while Courtney Lawes captained the side in Farrell’s injury-induced absence during November and this year’s Six Nations.

With Farrell back fit for this month’s summer series against the Wallabies, most expected Farrell to be restored as skipper. But although he does start in a midfield role, playing inside fly-half Marcus Smith, it was Lawes who was named captain.

Speaking to Sky Sports, it was a decision that took even Lawes by surprise.

“If I’m honest I was a bit surprised,” he said. “I was expecting to fall back into my role, with Faz (Owen Farrell) being the lead.

Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia

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Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia

Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia

“But to be honest, me and Faz work so well together, it doesn’t really matter which one of us is captain. We’re all leading in our own way.

“It’s a great honour and a privilege for me. I just want to do my best for the team, contribute as much as I can. Eddie (Jones) sees fit that me being in the captaincy role means that’s what I’ll be able to do, so it’s perfect.

“We’ve got a really good leadership group and I think we’ll do really well.”

Lawes captains England as they begin their tour of Australia on Saturday, live on Sky Sports

Lawes captains England as they begin their tour of Australia on Saturday, live on Sky Sports

The Northampton Saints forward has picked up 93 England Test caps in his career to date and has toured with the British and Irish Lion twice in 2017 and 2021.

What does he think his leadership style is?

“My main thing is leading by example,” Lawes said.

“And I suppose I provide an air of security. A lot of the younger lads coming into the team feel relatively relaxed around camp when I’m there. Generally because I’m pretty relaxed, and I think that helps.

“I also provide a kind of different thought process. I’m not just rugby, rugby, rugby, so I guess Eddie likes that different look on things sometimes.

“I’d say I’m pretty measured. Measured is a good way of putting it. I can be [hot-headed] to be fair, but generally I try to keep a lid on it.”

England head coach Eddie Jones explains his decision to stick with Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell

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England head coach Eddie Jones explains his decision to stick with Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell

England head coach Eddie Jones explains his decision to stick with Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell

England secured a 3-0 series whitewash of Australia the last time they toured the country in 2016, but did so off the back of winning a Six Nations Grand Slam under Jones that year.

This time, they come off the back of a Six Nations in which they lost three from five for a second consecutive year and were thrashed 52-21 by the Barbarians at Twickenham two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, the return of the likes of the Vunipola brothers, Care, Farrell, Jonny Hill, plus emerging talent such as Henry Arundell, has Lawes excited.

“I think it’s definitely one of the most exciting [England] teams.

“To be honest, it’s been one of the first times in a long time that we’ve had most of our really world class players fit.

“It’s great to get us all back together. And as soon as we took to the training field with that time, you just felt it.

Maggie Alphonsi says the pressure is on Jones and England to deliver positive results and performances on the tour of Australia

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Maggie Alphonsi says the pressure is on Jones and England to deliver positive results and performances on the tour of Australia

Maggie Alphonsi says the pressure is on Jones and England to deliver positive results and performances on the tour of Australia

“The communication, organisation, experience that’s on the pitch was phenomenal. We’re really looking forward to it.

“[The series will be] very competitive. Aus at home are certainly a force, and we’re full prepared for them to throw the kitchen sink at us.

“We’re ready.”

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Jack van Poortlviet, 22 Guy Porter, 23 Henry Arundell.

Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White; 1 Angus Bell, 2 David Porecki, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Darcy Swain, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 6 Rob Leota, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 Rob Valetini.

Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 James Slipper, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Jordan Petaia.

Sexton: Ireland desperate for a result | “Farrell has created special environment”

Ireland have never won a Test against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil, but they have beaten them three times since 2016, including most recently in November 2021 with a resounding success.

After a disappointing World Cup and inconsistent Six Nations campaigns in 2020 and 2021, Ireland looked some way off becoming a force at the top again. But the season just gone appears to have changed all that.

Ireland were sensational throughout the 2021/22 season, playing a superb brand of rugby, but they head to New Zealand looking to achieve something very few do – the All Blacks have only lost at home twice since 2009.

The Ireland skipper may be turning 37 this month, but remains critical to how they perform, and his hunger for success on this tour came through when he spoke to Sky Sports’ Alan Quinlan in New Zealand:

“We were written off left, right and centre, and we’ve come back and shown some great stuff.

“We’ve had some great results to go with it because we were always saying: ‘It’s coming, it’s coming’, and I think people were looking at us and going: ‘Is it really?’

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says the tour of New Zealand is an opportunity to test themselves ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup

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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says the tour of New Zealand is an opportunity to test themselves ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says the tour of New Zealand is an opportunity to test themselves ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup

“And now we’ve got to keep it going, and keep improving. Because that’s the mistake we made the last camp cycle for the World Cup.

“We probably peaked in 2018 and didn’t continue to evolve, and that’s what we’re keen to not let happen.

“We’ve brought some fresh faces on this tour that we need to get up to speed, and need to create that really competitive environment for the next World Cup.

“And you’re going to need 40 players. This tour has proven already: We’ve lost three or four players in the space of a week between the Maori game and training injuries.

“We need a lot of guys to be ready, and that’s what the point of this tour is: to test us and see how deep we can go in our squad.”

Sexton leads Ireland as captain for their three-Test tour of New Zealand

Sexton leads Ireland as captain for their three-Test tour of New Zealand

An Irish shadow squad were disappointing in defeat against the Maori All Blacks on Wednesday, but the team named by Andy Farrell for Saturday’s first Test is a strong one, albeit usual starters Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Conway and Iain Henderson miss out through injury.

“It’s such a difficult place to come and win. All our thoughts have been on getting a performance that will put us in the mix to get us a result that we’re desperate for,” Sexton added.

“The mood in the camp is good. We’ve always been very good, whether we’re winning with our provinces or not. Coming in, turning the page, and getting on the Irish page.

“It’s a pretty special environment that Faz (Andy Farrell) has put together.

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“For the first time in a long time, all the provinces are in the same boat. We’ve all been unsuccessful, none of us have won anything.

“There’s talk of Leinster and Ireland, but we have different coaches, we play slightly differently, with different systems, and that takes a bit of getting used to again.

“It’s always a challenge but we hope that we’ve done enough work now over the last two weeks to put us in good stead for our first game.”

Highlights of the Maori All Blacks' 32-17 win over Ireland in Hamilton

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Highlights of the Maori All Blacks’ 32-17 win over Ireland in Hamilton

Highlights of the Maori All Blacks’ 32-17 win over Ireland in Hamilton

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says his squad players will learn from their defeat at the hands of the Maori All Blacks

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says his squad players will learn from their defeat at the hands of the Maori All Blacks

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says his squad players will learn from their defeat at the hands of the Maori All Blacks

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Jamison Gibson Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Caelan Doris.

Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Cian Healy, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Bundee Aki.

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 George Bower, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Scott Barrett, 7 Sam Cane (c), 8 Ardie Savea.

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukeiaho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Pita Gus Sowakula, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Braydon Ennor.

New Zealand's Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday

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New Zealand’s Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday

New Zealand’s Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday

Jones: Wales have nothing to lose in South Africa

Wales face the Springboks this weekend on the back of a dire Six Nations campaign that ended with a dismal home defeat against Italy three months ago, while head coach Wayne Pivac has guided Wales to two fifth-placed finishes in the championship in his three years in charge, either side of them lifting the trophy in 2021.

They now face Test matches in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town – the opening two encounters at altitude – with Wales returning to a country they last visited eight years ago and where they have yet to beat South Africa in their history following 10 previous attempts.

Wales, perhaps more than any other Six Nations side this summer, are enormous underdogs, with very few expecting them to pick up anything by way of a result against the Springboks.

Dan Biggar captains Wales in South Africa, live on Sky Sports, with Alun Wyn Jones named on the bench for Saturday

Dan Biggar captains Wales in South Africa, live on Sky Sports, with Alun Wyn Jones named on the bench for Saturday

Former Wales tighthead prop and current Harlequins coach Adam Jones spoke to Sky Sports News this week ahead of the first Test, and while saying Wales have nothing to lose at this stage, he stressed they must also pay close attention to their set-piece – the key strength of South Africa.

“The thing is, we haven’t got anything to lose,” Jones said.

Former Wales prop Adam Jones highlights the tough task that Wales have on their tour of South Africa and says they have nothing to lose

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Former Wales prop Adam Jones highlights the tough task that Wales have on their tour of South Africa and says they have nothing to lose

Former Wales prop Adam Jones highlights the tough task that Wales have on their tour of South Africa and says they have nothing to lose

“We lost to Italy, we didn’t have the greatest Six Nations. But when France came to us, we were very close to beating them. A dropped pass and we probably would have beaten them.

“And everyone is saying how good the French are now.

“It’s like any game against South Africa, if you don’t get parity up front, it’s going to be a tough, long day.

“Have Wales picked the forward pack I thought they would? Probably not, but they’ll all be chomping at the bit to have a crack at the world champions.

“It’s a massive carrot to go down there and just win a Test. No Welsh team has ever done it.

“And if you win the first Test, all bets are off then.”

Will Greenwood says Dan Biggar will need to perform at his best if Wales are to have any chance of winning a Test in South Africa for the first time

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Will Greenwood says Dan Biggar will need to perform at his best if Wales are to have any chance of winning a Test in South Africa for the first time

Will Greenwood says Dan Biggar will need to perform at his best if Wales are to have any chance of winning a Test in South Africa for the first time

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kieran Hardy; 1 Gareth Thomas, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Dillon Lewis, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 Adam Beard, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Owen Watkin.

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Franco Mostert, 8 Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.

South Africa back, Damian Willemse says the Springboks are prepared for the challenge from Wales in the first of their three Test series

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South Africa back, Damian Willemse says the Springboks are prepared for the challenge from Wales in the first of their three Test series

South Africa back, Damian Willemse says the Springboks are prepared for the challenge from Wales in the first of their three Test series

Grant Gilchrist, Gregor Townsend: Argentina a formidable opponent

Gregor Townsend’s Scots have arguably the best chance to pick up a series victory this summer, facing an Argentina side that has struggled to threaten at the top level, by and large, for some time now.

Townsend needs to strike a balance this summer, however, as Scotland seek to win a Test series, but also try new players and new modes of attack/defence: “It gives us an opportunity to look at more players that perhaps wouldn’t have got into the Six Nations squad,” he said after naming the squad.

Skipper Grant Gilchrist and Townsend both spoke of the challenge that awaits this week.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Grant Gilchrist expect Argentina to prove to be tough opponents

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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Grant Gilchrist expect Argentina to prove to be tough opponents

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Grant Gilchrist expect Argentina to prove to be tough opponents

“What an exciting challenge, playing at one of the top teams, all their best players available, they’re at home in a hostile environment,” Gilchrist said.

“This is going to be a great test of me personally and of the team and I know all the boys involved here are buzzing with excitement for Saturday.

“I’ve played against them a few times, it’s always a physical battle.

“The individuals across the pitch they’ve got, the style of rugby they want to play, it’s a bit crazy at times but it always leads to the entertaining games you see.

Will Greenwood says home advantage gives Argentina the favourites tag for their series against Scotland

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Will Greenwood says home advantage gives Argentina the favourites tag for their series against Scotland

Will Greenwood says home advantage gives Argentina the favourites tag for their series against Scotland

“For me personally, I’ve had some great results against Argentina, but we’re under no illusions that just happens because it has in history.

“This Argentina team, when you look at the squad they’ve got, and the way their players have been playing, whether it been in the Southern hemisphere or in Europe, they’re leading performers across a lot of the top teams in Europe and in the Southern hemisphere, so that’s the challenge and that’s what we’re excited by.”

Rory Lawson says head coach Townsend will get a good understanding of Scotland's squad as they prepare for their three-Test series against Argentina

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Rory Lawson says head coach Townsend will get a good understanding of Scotland’s squad as they prepare for their three-Test series against Argentina

Rory Lawson says head coach Townsend will get a good understanding of Scotland’s squad as they prepare for their three-Test series against Argentina

Scotland: 15 Rory Hutchinson, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ali Price; 1 Pierre Schoeman, 2 George Turner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Grant Gilchrist (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Luke Crosbie, 8 Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Rory Darge, 21 Ben White, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Sione Tuipulotu.

Bumper July of rugby on Sky Sports

Saturday, July 2

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Saturday, July 9

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Tuesday, July 12

Maori All Blacks vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 8am (kick off is at 8.05am)

Saturday, July 16

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)