2017-11-13 by Liam Del Carme
Italy v Argentina
Italy laboured to a 19-10 win over Fiji last weekend. They only made the result safe with an 80th minute penalty from the boot of Ian McKinley. The fact that the Azzurri only managed to score one try against Fiji speaks of their blunt attack. The Pumas are no terriers in defence but the rough and tumble of the Rugby Championship would have steeled them for the task they’ll face this weekend. They acquitted themselves reasonably well against England last weekend. They frustrated the hosts at Twickenham and a similar fired up performance should see them record a seventh straight win over Italy. Those match-ups were however closely contested affairs. Italy have beaten Los Pumas just once in their last 10 clashes. Argentina should win this by a margin in the early double digits.
England v Australia
England won all four Tests against the Wallabies last year. That includes three wins on Australian soil. That helps make them favourites but the Wallabies have a pretty decent record at Twickenham. The Wallabies crucially won a World Cup pool match there in 2015, and also won there in 2012, 2009 and 2008. They may like London but the hard facts suggest England appear to have their number. Eight wins in the last 10 in this match-up is a compelling figure.
England however underwhelmed against Argentina last weekend. Having won their two Test series with a much weakened team in Argentina in June, England were expected to give Los Pumas a proper spanking last weekend. Their performance however drove coach Eddie Jones to some expletives, and they are likely to be more fired up this weekend.
The Wallabies have impressed in their two most recent matches. They knocked over the All Blacks last month and Wales in Cardiff last weekend. They also drew against the Springboks, although that now appears a feat likely to draw derision. The Wallabies have a chance but they’ll have to show grunt and composure in equal measure. England are still favourites.
Scotland v New Zealand
The All Blacks too have some work to do after a poor second half display against France. They held a commanding lead at the break but could only muster 12 percent possession in the second as a much changed French team tried to counter. They however, still won with a large degree of comfort on the scoreboard. The All Blacks will almost certainly be more ruthless this week. They are experimenting with several young players on tour and are likely to play with more fluidity in their third game. Scotland rather underwhelmed against Fiji last week. The All Blacks will win well here.
Ireland v Fiji
Ireland’s performance had the locals gushing last weekend. It will be a measure of their mental resolve if they are able to deliver another fist thumping performance of authority against Fiji. The Fijians again ran Italy close but ultimately the Six Nations team held the edge. Ireland should win this at a canter but perhaps not by the run-away margin most expect.
France v South Africa
France fielded six new caps last week against the All Blacks and emerged from that battle with heads held high despite a 38-18 beating at the hands of the world champions. The French however, dominated the second half.
France have some issues in the scrum and the normally redoubtable Rabah Slimani was binned for his illegal methods against the All Blacks, not that the Bok scrum was above reproach against Ireland. In fact, they were pegged back in an area they were expected to prosper. South Africa’s performance against Ireland was so utterly underwhelming they can only be better this weekend. As Ireland coach Joe Schmidt remarked his side looked fresher against a team whose players started their pre-season in December of last year.
Given the up and down nature of their season the Boks may well bounce back but France too are now under pressure to deliver under Guy Noves. A fourth defeat to the Boks on one year will be frowned upon. All five options are on the table in this game. The Boks might win this one, but only because France are weaker.