June International Test Matches – Week 3 Preview

As we approach the final complete round of the June International Test Match series, the dust is starting to settle and the Southern Hemisphere dominance is shining through once again. The big three (New Zealand, Australia and South Africa), made it six from six against their Northern Hemisphere opponents so far this winter series and are well on track to keep their 100% record after this weekend’s round of matches. Last weekend’s action kicked off in Dunedin, where rugby fans were treated to a classic encounter that showcased some ruthless defence, exceptional offensive play and two teams hell bent on beating one another. The match that followed in Melbourne between the Wallabies and France has been described as a ‘bore-fest’, but the Wallabies did enough to win. The Springboks were too classy for Wales in Pretoria and Ireland secured their second victory over Argentina ever (away) in Tucuman in a tight affair.

This weekend we see the third and final instalment of these matches (except for Argentina vs Ireland), coming to us from Hamilton, Sydney and Nelspruit. Last weekend’s saw three best bets cash out of five returning a profit and below I will analyse each match and provide some plays that I believe are favouring us, the punters. Make sure you follow me on Twitter (@S15_TheProfits) for last minute tips, game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat. Good luck! 

Best Bet 1: France +13.5 @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

Best Bet 2: France Over 15.5 (Total Points) vs Australia @ $1.87 – Sportsbet 

Best Bet 3: New Zealand – 10.5 @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter page)

Best Bet 4: England Over 1.5 (Total Tries) vs NZ @ $1.87 – Sportsbet

Australia ($1.16) vs France ($5.50)

Test match rugby returns to Allianz Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the final match of the three match series between Australia and France. To date, we have had two contrasting fixtures – one a blowout win to the Wallabies in a high-scoring affair and last weekend, the Wallabies held on for a dour 6 – 0 loss under the roof at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. In the process, the Wallabies retained the ‘Trophee des Bicentenaires’, which is played between these two nations and won their six match in succession for the first time since 2004.

Australia

The Wallabies and Ewen McKenzie will be happy that they wrapped the series up in Melbourne last weekend, however, they now have a number of additional things to work on as the French grinded them down and really nullified a number of the Wallabies attacking threats. Interestingly, it was the first Wallabies win without a try since 2001 and the fewest points in a Wallabies win since 1958. At the end of the day, a win is a win, but one gets the feeling that the Wallabies are certainly heading in the right direction. I must admit, following the conclusion of the Test match in Melbourne, there were a lot of unjustified anti-Wallaby tweets and posts. Sure, the game failed to reach any real heights and very few points were scored, however, the French were bolstered by a number of their better players, their attitude on defense was incomparable to week one and their offensive game looked a lot more dangerous through the likes of Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastereaud. Don’t forget that only two weeks ago, the Wallabies put on their best performance at home since 2005 and their mindset didn’t change, just some basic errors and a gritty defense stifled any movement on the scoreboard. Cameron Treloar, an ex-Australian Super Rugby player actually came out and argued this very point. I can understand that Australian rugby isn’t in the best financial state, especially with regards to viewer numbers and attendance rates, however, there is still a lot in the Wallabies performance you can be excited about – namely, their ability to hold their own against one of the best scrums in world rugby.

With the series already won by Australia, coupled with the final match being in Sydney, Ewen McKenzie will hand the monstrous Will Skelton with his first start in the green and gold jersey. Standing at 2.03 metres and tipping the scales at close to 140kg, the 22 year old will be handed the enforcer tag and will look to get the Wallabies the ascendency in the tight that the French wrestled back off them last week. Skelton’s inclusion has forced James Horwill back to the bench and Wycliff Palu’s return should also bolster the pack with Ben McCalman shifting to the pine as well. The back line remains the same for the third week in a row, which not only would boost the confidence of these players but allows them more time to gel ahead of The Rugby Championship in about six weeks time. I felt that Kurtley Beale may have justified a recall to the starting line up given the impact he has had off the bench, however, it wasn’t to be this week.

France

As predicted, the introduction of many of the stalwarts of Les Bleus rugby (Dusautoir, Parra, Medard etc.) helped deliver a polar opposite performance from the French team in comparison to their week one fiasco in Brisbane. The reinforcements added some extra grunt up front and strength at the breakdown, however, they still played overly cautiously, made some elementary mistakes and were ill-disciplined around the field. They must get some credit given the fact that they didn’t allow the dangerous Australian team to cross their try line, but their ineffectiveness on offense has now been exposed and it was the second time inside a year that they couldn’t trouble the scoresheet. Philippe Saint-Andre has restored faith in the majority of the team that played in Melbourne by only making two changes. Fulgence Ouedraogo has been recalled at the expense of Yannick Nyanga and the French will be hoping that Hugo Bonneval (3 caps) can make an impact on Test Rugby as he has done on the Top 14 with Stade de France.

Prediction

The two Test matches to date in this series have seen some contrasting results with some great attacking play in Brisbane followed by strong defense in Melbourne. France will want nothing more than to finish their season on a high, but it is going to take a big effort and an improved showing on their first two matches to trouble the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday afternoon. However, France still have enough quality around the park to score some points and if they shut down Israel Folau once again, getting the cover shouldn’t be too difficult. Additionally, with no rain forecasted and the series done and dusted, I can see this being a more open affair with quite a few more points scored than last week.

Predicted result: Australia to win @ $1.16 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: France +13.5 @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

Best Bet 2: France Over 15.5 (Total Points) vs Australia @ $1.87 – Sportsbet

New Zealand ($1.18) vs England ($5.00)

The third Test of what has been a fascinating series takes place at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday evening between New Zealand and England. Last weekend in Dunedin, the All Blacks overturned a ten-point halftime deficit to overpower the English 28 – 27 in front of a lively crowd at Forsyth-Barr Stadium. In doing so, the All Blacks kept hold of the Hillary Shield (played between these two nations), but given the narrow margins of victory in the first two Tests, the third Test match will be anything but a dead rubber.

New Zealand

The All Blacks got off to the slowest of starts last week, however, inevitably, as the All Blacks do, they responded and responded in the strongest possible fashion. Second half tries to Ma’a Nonu, Ben Smith and Julian Savea put the match out of reach of the English, although the Poms did manage to add some respectability to the scoreboard with two late tries of their own. The All Blacks ability to turn things up a gear has also been incredible to watch, but it is their fitness and stamina that gets them over the line time and time again. The All Blacks haven’t lost at home for almost five years (32 Tests) and have won 28 of their 30 Test matches under the tutelage of Steve Hansen. There may be some chinks in their armour, but the All Blacks are a team that continues to break the team records as well as individual records, such as Beauden Barrett’s feat of not having lost a test match in the 17 matches he has played for his country.

Steve Hansen has made just the two changes to this squad this week by recalling Kieran Read to number eight, which shifts Jerome Kaino to blindside flanker and Liam Messam to the bench. Read has been battling concussion issues this year, but it will be great to see him back in the black jersey as he is the reigning IRB World Player of the Year. The other change occurs in the backs with Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa set to make his run-on debut after the ever-consistent Conrad Smith broke his thumb and will be fixed to the sidelines for the next six to eight weeks. All credit must go to England, with Hansen resisting making bulk changes as he has done so in the past and stayed with his trusted combinations. One player I believe is under pressure is winger Cory Jane. He hasn’t lit up world stage so far this season and with a number of strong, speedy outside backs in New Zealand, his days could be numbered on the right wing.

England

After yet another strong performance against the All Blacks last weekend, England has well and truly announced themselves as Rugby World Cup contenders on their own turf next year. With a slightly different looking team as a result of the return of their Northampton and Saracens contingent, the English hit the ground running in Dunedin and raced out to an impressive first half lead. However, the All Blacks ground out a win in front of a boisterous crowd and left the English devastated having come so close to doing what very few have done in recent years. In the end, the scoreboard certainly flattered the visitors, as they were let down by some basic skill and decision making errors. During the week, England’s second stringers faced the Crusaders in at Rugby League Park in Christchurch and scored six tries to one with players like Danny Cipriani (fly half), Matt Kvesic (flanker), James Haskell (back row) and Ed Slate (captain – lock) really shining and working themselves into contention for the final Test match of their long and arduous season.

Coach Stuart Lancaster has made a whopping seven changes to his side to face the ‘unbeatable’ All Blacks this week. The three changes in the forwards certainly strengthen their pack with Dylan Hartley (hooker), Courtney Lawes (lock) and Billy Vunipola (number eight) replacing Rob Webber, Geoff Parling and Ben Morgan respectively. Danny Care who was rushed back into the team last week had a poor game and another injury sees him miss out on this clash, along with his halves partner Owen Farrell who has also succumbed to injury. Ben Youngs who has had an ordinary season to date returns at halfback alongside Freddie Burns to reunite the combination that did so well in the first Test match at Eden Park. Kyle Eastmond will play his second Test match of the series as he has been announced to wear the number 12 jersey, alongside Manu Tuilagi who moves one place in to his more familiar position of outside centre. This opens up a spot for England’s fastest player, Chris Ashton. Similarly to last week, the bench is packed with experience and players that can make a real impact with the once ‘Super Rugby’s worst defender’, but now thriving Danny Cipriani available as an inside back replacement.

Prediction

The All Blacks are known for losing their nerve during milestone games, especially given a win this weekend would equal their joint-world record for most wins in succession by a tier-one team. Given the All Blacks success so far this Test series, many other teams in world rugby would now sit back, make team changes and potentially lighten the workload before this upcoming Test match. However, the All Blacks are a different beast – ruthless, aggressive and possessing talent in abundance. If anything, I can see the All Blacks inflicting more pain on the English and they should steer themselves to their most convincing win of the series against an English team that has really boosted their stock price in New Zealand.

Predicted result:  New Zealand to break away in the second half and achieve a 3-0 series whitewash @ $1.18 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 3: New Zealand – 10.5 @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter page)

Best Bet 4: England Over 1.5 (Total Tries) vs NZ @ $1.87 – Sportsbet

South Africa ($1.10) vs Wales ($7.00)

The Springboks will welcome Wales for their final match of the June Internationals at the rare Test match venue of the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit this weekend, in what should make for an entertaining game of rugby. Last weekend in Durban, the Springboks bullied the Welsh into submission and the guile of Willie le Roux single-handedly took the game away from the tourists. In the process, the Springboks secured the Prince William Cup, a trophy the Welsh has never held despite some closely fought battles between the two nations.

South Africa

The Springboks officially opened up their Test Season with a comprehensive win against an understrength Wales team last weekend on the back of a dominant first half performance. The five tries to one showing excited Coach Heyneke Meyer and clearly showed what the Boks can achieve when their pack is dominating the opposition and their backs have front-foot ball. Bryan Habana is returning to career best form and scored a brace of tries and debutant Cornal Hendricks also crossed the chalk for the first time in his debut match for South Africa. Finally the Springboks have found someone in Willie le Roux, who has the natural instincts to back themselves and try something out of the box to the benefit of his team. Willie le Roux played a starring role in four of the Springboks five tries, one of which he dotted down himself. He plays like an in-form Quade Cooper and Ben Smith and creates opportunities for the players around him to thrive. Additionally, like Israel Folau, if le Roux were to get injured, their whole game would suffer. Also, Lood de Jager, the baby-faced Cheetahs lock made his debut for the Springboks last weekend and what a solid debut it was. At only 21, the 2.05 metre, 125 kg second rower was exposed to Test match rugby for just less than 40 minutes (due to Bakkies Botha’s injury) and he certainly didn’t look out of place. Given Bakkies Botha is back in the Springbok setup and the imminent return of Eben Etzebeth, the second row stocks for the men in green aren’t looking too shabby.

Coach Heyneke Meyer announced his team on Wednesday night that included two changes from the squad that won the first test match. Flip van der Merwe was granted a release last week to attend his brother’s wedding, so his timely return offsets Bakkies Botha’s aforementioned injury. Big Flip will partner his Bulls teammate Victor Matfield in the second row in a match that will see Matfield become the most capped Springbok ever with 112 appearances (overtaking former captain John Smith). Very little needs to be said about what he has done for South African rugby both on and off the field and I have no doubt that he will go down as one of the best lineout forwards the game has ever seen. Lood de Jager remains on the bench as the back up lock. In the front row, the all-Sharks trio of Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and the Beast are reunited with the latter replacing Gurthro Steenkamp after coming off the bench last weekend. The backline remains the same and another week of training and preparation will only strengthen their chances of securing another series win over Wales. Looking towards next week, I believe Meyer will rest a number of his stars given Scotland’s pour squad who struggled to a two point win over Canada last weekend in Toronto.

Wales                                                                                

Wales put together one of their worst performances of the year last weekend in Durban, but it really was a combination of a few things. Firstly, the team was missing huge names including Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny and Richard Hibbard and secondly, they had very little time to prepare given the recent culmination of the European provincial season. Lastly, they came up against a red-hot South African team, particularly in the first half and had very little in their armour to combat the might of the South African pack and the mercurial Willie le Roux. Unfortunately Adam Jones, who was playing his 100th International Test match (95 for Wales and 5 for the British & Irish Lions), had a torrid afternoon against Gurthro Steenkamp and was dejectedly pulled from the field around the half hour mark. The towering Luke Charteris and the Welsh back row had a quiet afternoon and were largely ineffective. Halfback Mike Phillips has really gone off the boil over the past few seasons and his poor execution and lack of quality decision-making really made it hard for Dan Biggar outside of him. George North was virtually non-existent on the wing, as was the giant centre Jamie Roberts. It wasn’t all bad news for the Welsh with Jonathan Davies having a solid outing and Alex Cuthbert scored a sensational full field solo try, cutting a tiring Springbok defensive line to pieces.

British & Irish Lions and current Welsh Coach Warren Gatland has only made the two changes this week. After Adam Jones’ poor showing in Durban, he drops out of the squad all together and Samson Lee will start in the front row. Flanker Josh Turnbull is also promoted off the bench and has been tasked to combat the likes of Francois Louw and Willem Alberts. The backline still remains dangerous, but if the forwards can’t lay the platform, as was the case in Durban, they will certainly be up against it.

Prediction

The Springboks stretched their winning record over the Welsh to 14 in Durban and based on last weekend’s performances, this match can only go one way. You can never count out Wales as they play with such passion and pride, however, their casualty ward is overflowing and they simply don’t have the power and strength to combat a South African pack that is mean and unrelenting. Matches are won up front and unfortunately for the Red Dragons, they will be heading home after running out of puff in Nelspruit.

Predicted result: South Africa to win @ $1.10 – Sportsbet

Best Bet: To be posted on twitter once all markets are released

Please Note:
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

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