The Autumn Internationals are nearly over and the feeling of terror becomes almost overwhelming at the prospect of no more International rugby this year, but fear not, it’s not quite over yet, this weekend brings 5 more top quality fixtures for all die hard rugby fans to get their fix. Starting with…
Italy vs South Africa
Last week’s win in France was the end of a five game losing streak for the Boks and they will be travelling to Padua on Saturday hoping to make it two wins on the bounce and change their fortunes for the better. Considering the quality of their other opponents this year South Africa will have probably eyed this game up as the easiest of the tour but if any team knows, South Africa know, you cannot underestimate your opposition, as last year’s surprise defeat in Florence proves. South Africa make two changes from the win in France last weekend with Pieter Steph Du Toit coming into the back row for Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi taking the place of the impressive Malcolm Marx at hooker. Italy, like South Africa will be looking to rescue their Autumn with a win Saturday having been comfortably beaten by Argentina last Saturday. Coming into the Autumn Italy seemed to have a bit of a spring in their step with the Italian sides faring well in the Pro 14 and new coach Conor O’Shea looking to add another level to the Azzuri’s game.
Italy really must be firing on all cylinders Saturday to stand any chance of victory and key to any Italy performance is the talismanic number eight Sergio Parisse, his battle with Francois Louw will be worth the entrance fee itself. Two very different players but equally effective, Parisse’s mercurial talents against Louw’s ability to pilfer ball and get under the skin of the opposition will be a sight to behold. As much as I would love to see an upset here I just can’t see it, the Springbok’s relentless level of physicality will be too much for Italy. I’ll go for South Africa by 15 points.
Scotland vs Australia
Scotland will be absolutely raring to go this weekend, desperate to get another chance to get stuck into another Southern Hemisphere giant after last Saturdays heroics against the All Blacks. Inspired by an unbelievable Stuart Hogg Scotland were simply better than New Zealand, their game plan and their execution of it was outstanding, the way they harassed and pushed the World Champions with their aggressive defence was exactly the way to beat New Zealand. But this week isn’t New Zealand, its Australia, a very different animal but no less dangerous. You know what they say about wounded animals and the Aussies will certainly be wounded after last week’s defeat to England.
Scotland make four changes from the team that pushed the All Blacks with late call up Sean Maitland stepping into the wing role in place of Lee Jones. Simon Berghan at prop, Grant Gilchrist at second row and Ryan Wilson on the back row are all promoted to the starting line up in place of Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis and Cornell du Preez respectively.
Australia will be looking to end the tour on a high after last week’s defeat to England and also make four changes to their squad with Tongan born Taniela Tupou making his test debut, Lukhan Tui, Tetera Faulkner and Henry Speight make up the foursome. Stephen Moore also starts on his final game for Australia.
I believe this will be a cracker of a game, probably the best of the weekend, it’s a tight call and I’m not really sure which way it will swing. I will favour home advantage though and go for Scotland BUT I wouldn’t be massively surprised if the game ended in a draw.
Wales vs New Zealand
I think its safe to say that this Autumn hasn’t really gone to plan for the Welsh, after getting comprehensively beaten by a good Australia team two weeks ago fans could have been forgiven for thinking the Georgia game could be a little respite and a good way to show off their strength in depth, but Georgia had different ideas. Although the Georgians were beaten by Wales it would have been far too close for comfort finishing in a controversial 13-6 win.
Wales make 13 changes to the starting line from last week with only Scott Williams in the centres and Rhys Webb at scrum half the only players to keep their shirts. The most surprising inclusion might well be Wales stalwart and Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts who takes his place on the bench after initially being dropped from the squad completely.
New Zealand come into the game with an apparent target on their backs after being outplayed by the Scots last week and hardly putting in a stellar performance against the French the week before, but like all top teams. although they didn’t play to their best ability they still came away with two wins.
New Zealand make three changes for this week’s encounter, all in the pack. Patrick Tuipolutu, Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock come into the team in place of Luke Romano, Vai Fifita and Keiran Read. There’s no doubt the All Blacks will miss their captain and number eight but Luke Whitelock has looked superb since moving to the Highlanders and deserves his chance.
New Zealand haven’t been at their best this Autumn but when they need to they just up their game and score enough points to get the win. I can’t see this game being any different. Ill go for an All Black win by at least 10 points.
Ireland vs Argentina
This series has been much of a mixed bag for the Irish, after the incredible performance of week 1 against South Africa to the pretty average game against Fiji last week, we don’t quite know what to expect. There’s absolutely no doubting Irelands talent, when they are on form they are more than a match for any team in the world but to ascend to the next level they must stay consistent and build their depth.
Ireland make 14 changes to the starting line from the team that laboured to victory against Fiji with only Munster centre Chris Farrell keeping his place. Young Leinster winger Adam Byrne makes his Debut.
Argentina will come into the game with a little confidence after last weeks win in Italy but has the progression of Argentina halted lately? In my opinion I think their growth is being stunted by the rule that all the team must play for the Jaguares which restricts their selection and means they miss out on some top talent.
There are changes at 13 and 14 for Argentina with Ramino Moyano and Matias Moroni taking the place of Sebastian Cancelliere and Matias Orlandi. Tomas Lezana also replaces Juan Manuel Leguizamon in the back row.
Ireland have reverted back to much of their strongest line up so I see them taking this game by 10 points or more.
England vs Samoa
I would hardly say England have fired on all cylinders this past two games but much like the All Blacks they have learned to win, even when they aren’t on top form. Two wins from two couldn’t be described as a bad Autumn but we all know there is much more to come from Eddie Jones’ young team.
England pick somewhat of an experimental side for Samoa with 9 changes from last weeks clash with Australia. There are 5 changes in the pack, Genge, Ewels, Simmonds and Itoje all start with Jamie George taking the place of captain Dylan Hartley. The backs have 4 changes, Mike Brown regains his place at fullback, Danny Care comes in at scrum half and its all change in the centres with Alex Lozowski and Henry Slade swap in for Farrell and Joseph.
Samoa will be looking to bring the same sort of expansive brilliance that saw them push Scotland all the way two weeks ago. They may not be the most structured team in the world but there is no denying their individual talent. With the likes of Tim Nanai-Williams, Kieran Fonotia and Ahsee Tuala they will always be a threat, especially on the counter.
I see another win for England here and pretty comfortably at that, id go England by at least 21.