International friendlies mean much more just a few weeks out from a World Cup. That is what we have here: players battling teammates for spots on the plane to France 2023.

Here is a look at some of this week’s games with odds from BetXchange.

New Zealand VS Australia – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

When: Saturday, August 5

Two teams that look to be trending in opposite directions heading into the World Cup meet here in Dunedin. The Aussies are trying to fast-track a scheme and system under the new leadership of Eddie Jones, while the All Blacks looked like the well-oiled machine they so often are in, cruising to a Rugby Championship win over South Africa.

New Zealand also blew Australia away in that same competition six days ago, winning 38-7 at the MCG. The only question is whether their depth is enough to cover the spread of 24.5 points, as Will Jordan, Ardie Savea, and Brodie Retallick are the only three players to retain their jerseys from a week ago. I think that they do – I would take them to win by more than the 24.5 on offer – and I also like Shaun Stevenson to grab a try in his long overdue Test debut.

Japan VS Fiji – Prince Chichibu Rugby Stadium, Tokyo

When: Saturday, August 5

Bigger match than it looks on paper this one. Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga have a bunch of their stars back for this World Cup, thanks to a rule change at the World Rugby level. Japan has seen its results tail off this World Cup cycle, but the Japanese always seem to know how to peak at the right time and have done some serious damage as underdogs in the last two World Cups.

This also decides the Pacific Nations Cup, with Fiji able to wrap up the title with a win here. I like them to take this by a try or so and put down another marker to scare World Cup pool mates Wales and Australia, who look to be the most vulnerable of the Tier 1 nations heading to France.

Scotland VS France – Murrayfield, Edinburgh

When: Saturday, August 5

Finn Russell has been handed the Scotland captaincy as the men from Muffayfield adjust to life without Stuart Hogg in the No. 15 jersey. Hogg abruptly retired from all rugby over the last couple of months, with his inability to get his body right for the World Cup showing just how brutal this sport can be to even its biggest stars at the top level.

France has lost just one of its last 18 matches, and the strength in depth that the French have rivals New Zealand and South Africa as the best in the world. One thing to note is that while France has yet to play since the Six Nations back in the spring, Also, the likes of Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, and Gregory Alldritt are sitting this one out. While France should still win and cover, those missing names mean I would look elsewhere to bet on Saturday.

Wales VS England – Principality Stadium, Cardiff

When: Saturday, August 5

England head coach Steve Borthwick says that performances in this match have nothing to do with his World Cup squad announcement. No one believes him.

Dan Biggar is out for Wales, with Sam Costelow playing at 10. It is hard to think that this is what Warren Gatland will do in the World Cup opener, but stranger things have happened internationally. Wales has talent – the likes of Louis Rees-Zammit and Rio Dyer in the backline will cause problems – but if England can go deep in this World Cup, they need a statement win here. Take England to cover.

Argentina VS South Africa – Jose Aalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires

When: Saturday, August 5

South Africa picked up a one-point win at Ellis Park last weekend, and I like the Boks to do better and win more convincingly in Buenos Aires. It feels like South Africa was stung by the manner of their defeat against New Zealand, and the Boks need a performance here against the always-scrappy Argentines.

Dean Fourie is this week’s placeholder for Siya Kolisi, while Jean Kleyn of Munster makes his second start in a Boks jersey. This is a make or break week for plenty of players in the 23, so I expect South Africa to come out on top by 10 points or so.


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