The first full weekend of End of Year internationals is here, and there are some belters on the cards. The showpiece fixture sees World No. 1 Ireland hosting South Africa, while Australia’s visit to France should also be a cracker.
Here is a look at some of the games with odds from BetXchange.
Wales VS New Zealand – Millenium Stadium, Cardiff
Louis Rees-Zammit has been making all the headlines in the English Premiership, but it is the other wing where Wales have made their most interesting selection for Saturday. Rio Dyer will make his Wales debut at 22, part of a back three melding youth out wide with experience at fullback in the shape of Leigh Halfpenny.
New Zealand will be without key lock Brodie Retallick for this and the match next week against Scotland after he was red-carded against Japan. He joins other important forwards on the sidelines as Dane Coles and Sam Cane both picked up injuries last weekend and will miss the whole tour.
The All Blacks form has been all over the place this year, but they should have more than enough to take down Wales and cover the spread of -12.5 in Cardiff.
Ireland VS South Africa – Aviva Stadium, Dubin
Is it possible that Ireland has peaked too soon yet again?
The Irish are notorious for being at their best before the World Cup and then trailing off, something that their fans are worried has happened again, with them currently being the No. 1 ranked side in the world. This should be a cracking match – and a dynamic Test – against a South African side that will also be among the favorites to lift the trophy in France in 2023.
Conor Murray is set for his 100th cap for Ireland in a Test where the pre-match conversation has focused on the project kit clash that might make this close to unwatchable. Ireland loves to play with a speed and offensive tempo that is hard for teams to match, while South Africa will look to make this as physical as possible and get into the Irish pack.
Seeing Cheslin Kolbe start at fullback might be worth the ticket price, but expect the Springbok superstar to be tested early and often under the high ball. I think Ireland – at home – does enough to win this and cover the -4.5.
England VS Argentina – Twickenham Stadium, London
England is a team that needs to make a statement this November. Sure, they are the No. 5 team in the world, but this doesn’t feel like a squad that has any cohesion with the World Cup just a year away. Questions abound about who is the No. 1 scrum-half from a host of contenders, including Raffi Quirke and Jack van Poortvliet, can Marcus Smith work with Owen Farrell as a 10/12 combo, where is Courtney Lawes best position, and is there an international quality center pairing in the entire squad if Many Tuilagi is injured.
It looks like the trio of Smith, Farrell, and Tuilagi will be playing together for just the second time after Farrell was passed fit earlier this week. Argentina has improved under coach Michael Cheika, but this weekend is bizarre as he coaches Lebanon against Australia in a Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal before turning right around for this match on Sunday. England wins, but I can definitely see a backdoor cover at +15.5.