Spring Tour 2017 – Week 2 Preview

Best Bet 1: Queensland Country +3.5 (NRC vs Canberra) @ $1.80 – Bet365

Best Bet 2: Australia to win @ $1.80 – William Hill (early twitter play) 

Best Bet 3: New Zealand -15.5 @ $1.80 – Sportsbet

ENGLAND ($1.05) VS ARGENTINA ($10.50)

Rugby HQ, better known as Twickenham in London, will see England host the first match of their Test season when they face Argentina on Saturday night. Currently ranked second in the world, England have gone from strength-to-strength under the guidance of Eddie Jones, winning the RBS 6 Nations this year and winning a two match series in Argentina in June, despite being without up to 20 first-choice players as a result of injury and the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand. Conversely, Argentina have been trending the other way, losing all six matches in The Rugby Championship. England are heavy favourites heading into this fixture having won the last nine matches against the Pumas, including the last four in London. 

England: Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw, Sam Underhill, Nathan Hughes, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Mike Brown

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Harry Williams, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, , Danny Care, Alex Lozowski, Semesa Rokoduguni

Argentina: Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Hernandez, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano Joaquin Tuculet

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Enrique Pieretto, Benjamin Macome, Leonardo Senatore, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nicolas Sanchez, Sebastian Cancellere

Prediction:

England head into this match-up looking to solidify their number two world ranking in what will be only one of two clashes against southern hemisphere teams this spring, the other being Australia next week. Eddie Jones has found a way to get the best out of his players and has also done a good job in blooding youngsters, looking ahead to the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cups. Conversely, Argentina have only managed one victory from nine matches this year (vs Georgia), under Daniel Hourcade and captain Agustine Creevy. Whether it be in Super Rugby or on the International stage, the Pumas have three key problems. Their scrum doesn’t have the stability or imposing nature that once struck fear into their opposition’s eyes, their fitness isn’t up to scratch and their ill-discipline continues to cost them games. Heading to Twickenham will be a tough challenge for the Pumas and although they’ll be better off having come up against NZ, Australia and South Africa this year, England shouldn’t have too much trouble in producing a double-digit victory, even without Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell. If they aren’t well ahead by half-time, they’ll pull away in the final twenty minutes.

Predicted result: England to win @ $1.05 – Sportsbet

WALES ($2.20) VS AUSTRALIA ($1.65)

Wales welcome Australia for an enthralling clash at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday night. Australia are coming off a second place finish in The Rugby Championship, a rare victory over the All Blacks in Brisbane and a thumping 63-30 win over Japan last weekend in Yokohama. This will be Wales first clash of their International season as a full-strength squad given the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in June. Australia dominate the history between these two nations having won the last 12 matches, however, apart from last year’s blowout (32-8), ten of those matches have seen an average winning margin of only seven points.

Wales: Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn-Jones (captain), Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi, Toby Faletau, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Steffan Evans, Owen Williams, Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Sam Cross, Owen Watkin, Hallam Amos

Australia: Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale

Replacements: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Alan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight

Prediction:

With the British & Irish Lions tour done and dusted, Warren Gatland returns to coach the Welsh in a crucial fixture against the Wallabies. They have had a pretty standard year in Welsh terms beating Italy, Ireland, Tonga and Samoa and experiencing losses to England, Scotland and France. However, they head into this clash down a number of their stalwarts and in-form players like Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb and Scott Williams. There has been rumours that Gatland will attempt to move away from ‘Warrenball’, a style of play that is situated around gain line dominance and using their big ball-runners to target the first and second defenders off the ruck. If done well, this creates space out wide as a result of defenders bunching in. Given how many Welsh players were in the British & Irish Lions setup, I would imagine they would use similar tactics against the Wallabies, employing the rush defence.

The Wallabies victory over Japan went according to plan for coach Michael Cheika, securing a comfortable victory and giving some fringe players some much-needed game time. Led up front by Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sean McMahon, the Wallabies backline were provided a platform to shine with Reece Hodge taking his opportunity as Bernard Foley’s deputy to unleash the likes of the powerful centre combination of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani. Hodge’s accuracy off the tee (9/9) and booming punts are a huge asset for the Wallabies and it is clear that Cheika recognises this by trying him in so many different positions over the past 12 months. In saying that, when diving deeper into the stats of last weekend’s win, Michael Cheika and defensive coach Nathan Grey will be somewhat concerned about their defence (36 missed tackles) and discipline (16 penalties conceded), especially with Leigh Halfpenny a very reliable goal kicker on the other side of the equation this week.

There’s no doubt that Wales will look to target Australia up front, as every team has done for the past decade. Australia has come on in leaps and bounds in recent times in this area, but with the recent departure of former Argentinian scrumming guru Mario Ledesma, I’m interested to see how this affects them. The Wallabies have scored more tries in nine Test matches this season than they did in 15 last year, so if their pack can gain parity up front, their dangerous backs should have too much guile and power to silence the crowd en route to the Wallabies 13th straight win over Wales.

Predicted result: Australia to win @ $1.65 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: Australia to win @ $1.80 – William Hill (early twitter play)

IRELAND ($1.47) VS SOUTH AFRICA ($2.68)

In what will be a fascinating Test match, Ireland host South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday night. This will be Ireland’s first match of the Autumn series with matches against Fiji and Argentina to come. The Springboks have restored some pride in their jersey this season, especially after a recent nail-biting 24-25 loss to the All Blacks, but they will be looking to sweep their way through Europe to continue that momentum. In 2016, Ireland toured South Africa and secured their first win ever in the Republic, however, the Springboks won the series, 2-1 after victories in Johannesburg (second Test) and Port Elizabeth (third Test).

Ireland: Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadgh Furlong, Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahoney, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Jonny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Conway, Rob Kearney

Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilkoyne, John Ryan, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam

South Africa: Tendai Mtwawira, Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Damien de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Andries Coetzee

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Franco Mostert, Uzair Cassiem, Rudy Paige, Handre Pollard, Francois Venter

Prediction:

Ireland has had a strong 2017 securing victories over Italy, France, Japan, USA, Japan and an impressive win over England in the RBS 6 Nations, ending the Red Rose’s quest for a consecutive wins world record. Coach Joe Schmidt has done an exceptional job in growing his team and bringing youngsters into a system that appears to be firing on all cylinders. Players like 100-Test veteran hooker Rory Best, Devin Toner, the tallest lock in Test rugby and the powerful Sean O’Brien are experienced campaigners in the pack, and the halves pairing of Connor Murray and Jonny Sexton would give Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett a run for their money. I am really excited to see how Robbie Henshaw continues to grow as he has done an exceptional job at playing the ‘Brian O’Driscoll’ role. Joey Carberry, Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale are also promising talents as outside backs. However, I do have one gripe with the selection of the most un-Irish player in world rugby, Bundee Aki, selected to represent the men in green this weekend on the basis that he has lived in Dublin for three years. Morally, I don’t like it and World Rugby really should’ve clamped down on this many years ago.

After the worst Springbok rugby year on record in 2016, the Springboks have bounced back this year with some promising performances. They will always be judged on whether or not they beat the All Blacks (which they didn’t), so this tour will ultimately decide whether or not they get pass marks for 2017 and potentially if Alastair Coetzee maintains his job as South Africa’s coach. Like most teams, the Springboks have been rocked by injuries this year, but their should be enough depth both at home and abroad for this not to be such a concern. Eben Etzebeth has done a good job leading from the front in Warren Whiteley’s absence and has recovered to play in this match.

Matches between these two proud rugby nations in Ireland have always proved to be close encounters. Both teams rely on their set piece, physical dominance and goal kickers, so the stage is set for a war of attrition. Psychological points will definitely be on offer in this one, with both teams on course to lock horns at the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals in Japan and with the impending announcement of the 2023 Rugby World Cup hosts due to be announced in just over a week. Whoever plays the smarter game will win this match because the Springboks bullying tactics won’t work against Ireland. South Africa bring continuity in this fixture with Ireland not having played collectively as a unit since March and I think that might just give them an edge in what will be a tightly contested tussle. This is my least confident play as Ireland will be devastated if they don’t win this one.

Predicted result: South Africa to win @ $2.68 – Sportsbet

FRANCE ($6.50) VS NEW ZEALAND ($1.11)

The latest edition of the France vs New Zealand rivalry will take place at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night (local time). After an ordinary 2016, the French haven’t fared much better this season, only securing three victories from 8 matches, including a recent 3-0 series loss to the Springboks in June. An under-strength All Blacks outfit overturned a halftime deficit to beat the Barbarians 31-22 at Twickenham in London last weekend. New Zealand are currently riding a 10-match winning streak over Les Bleus, with the locals not having tasted victory on their shores since 2000 (7 straight home losses).

France: Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Rabah Slimani, Sabastien Vahaamahina,
Paul Gabrillagues, Judicael Cancoriet, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Teddy Thomas, Nans Ducuin

Replacements: Clement Maynadier, Raphael Chaume, Daniel Kotze, Paul Jedrasiak, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damian Penauu

New Zealand: Kane Hames, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Vaea Fifita, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain), Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Damien McKenzie

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tunga’afasi, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown

Prediction:

You never really know what you are going to get with the French, but over the past few years they have been more miss than hit. To make matters worse, French coach Guy Noves has reported that he is without at least 16 first-choice players, which is a real shame for this match and the Spring Tour in general. Les Bleus has a huge talent base to pick from and there are a number of promising youngsters coming through, namely halfback Baptiste Serin, flyhalf Anthony Belleau and centre Damien Penaud, but they have really struggled to evolve and build a world-beating team. They are a big powerful side that prides themselves on their scrumming ability and they now have the luxury of having some sizeable backs including Mathieu Bastareaud to use to get forward momentum.

Being the number one team in the world, the All Blacks always have a target on their back. Steve Hansen has only retained six players that represented New Zealand last week against the Barbarians, rolling out the big guns to get the tour started on the right note. I am predicting the All Blacks to cross the chalk at least three times this week and become the first team in the world to score 2000 Test match tries (averaging 3.5/Test vs France at 2.3 tries/Test). It has been forecasted to be wet in Paris early on in the day before clearing up by the time the match gets underway, but the All Blacks know how to handle these conditions better than anyone. It’s been 44 years since the French have beaten New Zealand in Paris and I suspect that record will be extended after this weekend’s encounter. A tired French team recently toured South Africa for losses of 23, 22 and 23 points respectively and with the All Blacks first-choice 23 looking to get things back on track after a recent loss to the Wallabies, they should do it in comfortable fashion.

Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.05 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 3: New Zealand -15.5 @ $1.90 – 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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