Spring Tour 2017 – Week 1 Preview

Best Bet 1: Australia -27.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2 (NRC Play): Queensland Country -10.5 (vs Fiji Drua) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet

JAPAN ($15.00) VS AUSTRALIA ($1.02)

Two years out from the Rugby World Cup in this very nation, Japan welcomes Australia to the Kanagawa Nissan Stadium in Yokohama to kick-off the Autumn Internationals/Spring Tour. The full-strength Wallabies team are coming off an impressive and rare victory over the All Blacks, whereas, their second-stringers struggled against an enterprising Barbarians outfit last weekend, despite securing a narrow 31-28 in Sydney. The Brave Blossoms were also unconvincing, going down 27-47 to a Robbie Deans-coached World XV in an exhibition match in Fukuoka. These teams have clashed on just the four occasions with the Wallabies winning all of them, including the last one during the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. In saying that, this will be their first clash in Japan.

Japan: Ketia Inagaki, Shota Horie, Takuma Asahara, Kazuki Hemono, Hell Uver, Michael Leitch (captain), Kousaku Shisuke, Amanaki Mafi, Shiro Tanaka, Masaya Matsuda, Ryuji Noguchi, Rikichi Tachikawa, Timothy Lafaele, Lomano Lemeki, Kotaro Matsushima

Replacements: Atsuchi Sakate, Koki Yamamoto, Asaeli Ai Valu, Wimpie van der Walt, Fetuani Lautaimi, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Sione Teapa

Australia: Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Henry Speight, Kurtley Beale

Replacements: Stephen Moore, Tom Robinson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Phillip, Ben McCalman, Lopeti Timani, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona

Prediction:

Led by coach Japan Joseph, Japan have had a relatively standard year on the International stage blitzing through the Asian Championship before losing consecutive matches to an under strength Irish outfit in June. The Sunwolves have been nothing short of woeful throughout their two seasons in Super Rugby and the JRFU would’ve hoped for more success on the international stage, after their famous victory over the Springboks at the last Rugby World Cup in England. The Brave Blossoms squad that went down to the World XV last weekend, was an experimental one, but their defensive and disciplinary issues were once again exposed. Looking at Joseph’s team for this weekend’s clash with the Wallabies, it is clear they have the back row to compete with the Wallabies, but they look light up front and out wide. He has opted for a number of youngsters and inexperienced international campaigners.

Michael Cheika rested 13 first-choice players for the match against the Barbarians last weekend and in the end, he was fortunate to escape with the victory. Ultimately, the Wallabies structure prevailed and they were able to capitalise on the Baa-Baas ill-discipline, however, I feel that their depth issues resurfaced. To be fair, most of those players have had very little exposure to International rugby over the past 12 months and cohesiveness and fluidity were always going to count against them. Looking at Michael Cheika’s squad, the majority of the first choice line-up is back in action this weekend, barring Israel Folau who has been given the rest of the year off. His omission has caused a reshuffle in the back line with Samu Kerevi’s inclusion at inside centre shifting the in-form Kurtley Beale to fullback. Flanker Jack Dempsey, the man of the match against New Zealand, tore his hamstring off the bone last week, forcing him out of the tour. He has been replaced by Ned Hanigan. There is also a new halves pairing of Rebels utility Reece Hodge and Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps.

The Wallabies will be excited about playing a rare Test match in Japan, especially with the first-stringers back in the equation. Japan will also be using this fixture and their upcoming matches against Tonga and France to gauge where they are at, two years out from their home Rugby World Cup. The extra time off would’ve done the men in gold the world of good and with matches to come against Wales, England and Scotland on consecutive weekends, Australia will be looking to use this match as a springboard for a strong Spring Tour. Despite being without Will Genia, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau, the Wallabies newfound belief and structured nature will prove too much for a Japanese team that has really struggled to evolve over the past few seasons. I can see this match being a real blow-out.

Predicted result: Australia to win @ $1.02 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: Australia -27.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

BARBARIANS ($9.50) VS NEW ZEALAND ($1.06)

A star-studded Barbarians outfit will take on the mighty New Zealand All Blacks at Twickenham in London on Saturday night. The All Blacks are coming off a rare 18-23 loss to the Wallabies two weeks ago, whereas, an under-strength Barbarians outfit game very close to beating the Wallabies second-stringers last weekend in Sydney. The All Blacks have played the Barbarians on ten occasions in their history, dating back until 1948 with the men in Black victorious seven times. However, the last fixture which took place in 2009, saw the Barbarians reign supreme with a 25-18 victory on the back of three tries to Springbok winger Bryan Habana.
Barbarians: Jacques van Rooyen, Adriaan Strauss, Atu Moli, Sam Carter, Dominic Bird, Steven Luatua, Kwagga Smith, Luke Whitelock, Andy Ellis (captain), Richie Mo’unga, Vince Aso, Harold Vorster, Richard Buckman, Julian Savea, George Bridge

Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Ben Franks, Ruan Smith, Willie Britz, Ruan Ackermann, Mitchell Drummond, Robert du Preez, Dillon Hunt

New Zealand: Kane Hames, Nathan Harris, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Scott Barrett, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett (captain), Seta Tamanivalu, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Waisake Naholo, David Havili

Replacements: Asafa Aumua, Tim Perry, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Matt Duffie

Prediction:

The Australian version of the Barbarians did the jersey proud last weekend in a narrow 28-31 loss to an under-strength Wallabies line-up. Their enterprising and innovative play deserved a much bigger crowd as they scored a number of scintillating tries. This week’s Barbarians line-up is coached by Robbie Deans, a former Crusaders and Wallabies coach. He has selected a powerful invitational match-day 23, with only Brumbies lock Sam Carter surviving last week’s match. The squad is littered with southern hemisphere stars including one Australian, nine Springboks and 13 New Zealanders, which will be sure to draw a good reception at Rugby HQ.

The All Blacks begin their final chapter of an arduous 2017 season against a team that will be looking to attack at all costs. The visitors will be smarting after a rare loss in Australia two weeks ago and they will use this match to experiment and flush out their legs ahead of big matches against France, Scotland and Wales in the coming weeks. It has been well documented that the All Blacks haven’t been at the top of their game this season, scoring fewer tries and conceding more than previous seasons, but they still managed to sweep through the Rugby Championship for the fifth time in six years. Coach Steve Hansen’s main focus this week will be to have a look at newcomers to see how they might fit into the picture leading up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. In the absence of Kieran Read, Beauden Barrett has been giving the honour of leading his country, with three potential debutants in Asafa Aumua, Tim Perry and former league-convert Matt Duffie on the bench.

This match has try-fest written all over it. Both teams love nothing more than to play a fast-paced, attacking brand of rugby. Any time a player gets to face the All Blacks is a moment that they will cherish forever, but it also provides them with an opportunity to make a name for themselves, or in some players’ cases, prove to selectors that they should be representing their countries in Test matches across the Spring Tour and beyond. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t look like it is going to play its part this weekend, but with so much quality and class on display, I expect a big crowd to witness a more structured New Zealand outfit secure victory in London in a high-scoring match. I’d be happy to take the +24.5 though with the quality that exists in the Barbarians outfit, but it isn’t an official play.

Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.06 – Sportsbet

 

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 15 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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