As we enter the third round of November Internationals, we have to lean more towards the Southern hemisphere teams with three of the big four – the All Blacks, Springboks and Aussies – winning their games over the past weekend. As the end of the year tours are drawing to a close, here’s what we can expect from the third round.
Italy vs Australia
The Aussies are becoming a more enigmatic team than the French of the past few years. At the end Castle Championship we saw them lose heavily against the Boks, only to draw against the All Blacks; receive a beating from Les Bleus, only to beat England a week later. In spite of all the pressure, suspensions, and a ton of injuries, Robbie Deans has found a mediocre formula that actually seems to function. Realistically I didn’t give them a chance against England, but somehow they defied the odds. Their journey only gets easier this coming weekend, taking on Italy in Florence. Look out for Berrick Barnes to dictate play from the back.
Italy on the other hand barely managed home against Tonga, only to be thrashed by an All Blacks side that looked a bit strange, in terms of selections (Barrett at fullback!?), compared to what we have been accustomed to. They might pose some questions to the Aussie pack with guys like Castrogiovanni in the front row, but all in all I can’t see them winning this game.
My Superbru prediction: Aussies by 7.
Ireland vs Argentina
Of all the European sides, France and Ireland have looked to be the best two teams. The Irish lost marginally to the Boks a few weeks back, and although they are still missing some their big guns (e.g. O’Driscoll) they are not to be underestimated. Johnny Sexton controls the game beautifully and with guys like Darcy and Bowe making up the rest of the backline, they will pose a real threat if they manage to get some good go-forward ball from their forwards.
It is in fact in the forward department that I feel the Argentinians will have the upper hand with guys such as Leguizamon and Fernandez Lobbe playing some outstanding and committed rugby for their country. The past weekend they lost to a French team that, at the moment, looks close to unstoppable. Although the margin was bigger than the Pumas would’ve hoped for, there still were some positives to take from the game. This Pumas side has, in a sense, really come from nowhere and to do as well as they have this year year, really has taken a Rocky Balboa – like effort. All credit to the players and coaching staff. I foresee this game to be really close, with forwards domination and the boot to win the game.
My Superbru prediction: Ireland by 4.
England vs South Africa
A win is a win is a win. Although it hasn’t always been pretty, the Boks have managed to win both their games so far. Coach Meyer has largely stuck to his winning formula of the past few weeks, with the very welcome inclusion of Elton Jantjies on the bench in the place of Morne Steyn. Thus far Patrick Lambie hasn’t been at his best but I expect him to fire over the weekend. Furthermore expect Francois Louw to once more be the leading man in the pack, together with on-form Etzebeth and, once again finding some form, Willem Alberts. I foresee the Bok pack to be too strong for the English in both the scrum and the line-outs.
Stuart Lancaster can really feel dissapinted with the loss against the severly under-form Aussies over the past weekend. The English really have the potential to be a big contender at the next World Cup and Stuart Lancaster looks calm and collected enough to get them there, but first they have to be a more consistent and clinical team. Coach Lancaster has made some changes to the team that lost this past weekend, but expect captain Robshaw to be the standout man, and his dual with Francois Louw should be one for the books. In the midfield de Villiers and de Jongh will have their hands full with the likes of Tuilagi and Barrit, who both are strong ball runners. Even though I foresee the game to be played predominantly among the forwards, let’s hope for a sunny and clear day at Twickenham with some exciting running rugby.
My Superbru prediction: Springboks by 7.
Wales vs New Zealand
Poor, poor Wales… They’ve really had a few months they would like to forget quickly. Going from Six Nations champs to losing five in a row points to something being really wrong in their team setup. But what could be the problem? Maybe it’s caretaker coach Howley? Maybe it’s their captain Warburton? Maybe they chose the wrong players? It would seem to be a combination of these elements, but they’ll hope to sort this out as quickly as possible, given that their season only seems to get tougher and tougher. With coach Gatland back, they will look to the senior guys like Halfpenny, Roberts, Rees and Warburton to lead from the front.
They face an All Black team, that have all their big guns back this coming weekend. They welcome back the likes of Dagg, mercurial playmaker Carter, and fearless leader McCaw. In spite of these guys being missing this past weekend, the All Blacks still rather easily disposed of Italy. Their squad depth and player management will leave all other international teams green with envy. They face a Welsh team who will feel the pressure mounting and who will be more than short of confidence, given their recent loss tho minnow team Samoa. Look out for Dagg, Smith, Carter, McCaw, Read… hell, just keep watch over all of them as they have the capacity to run riot from any part of the field. Poor, poor Wales… Their luck won’t turn this weekend.
My Superbru prediction: All Blacks by 16.
Other internationals this weekend:
Scotland vs Tonga = Scotland by 13.
France vs Samoa = France by 14 (Watch out for Clerc, Michalak, Picamoles, and Nyanga this weekend!)