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)
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
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
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