OUT: Kristersson, Duffy, Nordgren,
IN: Rafael, Axelsson, Hoade
Rafael , prop/flanker, and Axelsson, scrum-half, have played well all season for their clubs in Allsvenskan. Hoade, centre, played for U18 nine years ago, now playing at very low level in England. Of the three who have come in, all are on the bench.
Of the starting XV Helge Strale replaces Pettersen/Cordes as prop, Larsson replaces Eliasson as lock and Fransson replaces Ahlbäck as full back, who in turn moves to the wing to replace Nordgren. I imagine Nordgren was injured or not available, but who knows? I´m sorry to be negative again, some people seem to regard this as close to treason, but I would love to have a debate with anyone who maintains that this is currently Sweden´s best XV. I don´t know anybody who regularly follows Swedish rugby who would maintain that this is the case. Many regard some of the choices as incomprehensible, after seeing most of the few matches they have played this year.
There are still three forwards neither good enough nor fit enough to play international rugby. We know Sweden have half a dozen good players, but will that be enough against Switzerland? They started off with a bang last year, outclassing Sweden 69 – 12, but by the end of the season they could only beat Croatia 32 – 20. They have a fearsome prop, Cameron Hollenstein, 134 kg, who will create enormous problems for the Swedish pack which could well go backwards at speed. Hard to see Sweden reversing last year´s result, they´re about the same strength as before, but Switzerland seems to have a fair number of new players and may not be able to reach the heights of a year ago. We shall see on Saturday afternoon.
The remaining teams in the Trophy group all play at the weekend, Czechia vs Croatia and Ukraine vs Lithuania, the latter match being played in Croatia. The game between the two C:s could be fascinating. The Czechs are not the team of yesteryear, but they still showed they could create and score tries (the try count was 6 – 5 to Sweden last week). The Czechs have made six changes from the Swedish match, we´ll see if that helps them to raise their game. Croatia have been improving of late at XVs and VIIs and I wouldn´t like to forecast this result.
The remaining game could also be interesting. It must be heart-breaking for Ukraine to play under the present circumstances, I believe one of their team members has been killed in the fighting; yet they beat Sweden comfortably last year. Even Lithuania seems to have fallen away of late. Sweden did well to beat them narrowly last year after they seemed to be moving up a level. This match could also go either way.