16 Nov This Saturday could be a different story for the Home Nations…
Victories of varying conviction for England, Ireland and Scotland last weekend against southern hemisphere opposition made for an uplifting opening chapter for the Home Nations in the autumn internationals.
This Saturday, however, could be a different story as the Wallabies descend on Twickenham and the All Blacks head north to Murrayfield for Round Two.
Iain Spragg, rugby betting expert, wraps this one up…
England v Australia | 18 November
The Red Rose’s clash with Australia at HQ is the fifth meeting between the old rivals since Michael Cheika’s team humiliatingly dumped England out of their own World Cup two years ago.
In reply, Eddie Jones’ boys have exacted their revenge with four successive wins since that embarrassing 33-13 defeat.
Saturday’s showdown, however, looks likely to be the tightest since 2015 given England’s laboured 21-8 win over Argentina, a performance an irritated Jones dismissed as a ‘grind-athon’.
The Aussies meanwhile were full of their trademark fluidity against Wales, scoring four tries in their 29-21 triumph in Cardiff.
Jones has recalled fit-again prop Joe Marler and wing Jonny May and will surely reinstate Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje to his starting line-up after resting the Lions and Saracens pair against the Pumas.
Jonny May named @premrugby Player of the Month for October ⭐️
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 15, 2017
The tourists have Reds full-back, Karmichael Hunt, back in contention but an injury doubt over hugely experienced second-rower Rob Simmons.
England have not been beaten at Twickenham since the World Cup – an 11-match winning sequence– and they’re strong 7/20 favourites to come out on top this weekend.
The Wallabies are back at what looks like a generous 23/10 while the draw is 25/1.
Scotland v New Zealand | 18 November
Scotland entertain New Zealand in Edinburgh with the weight of history heavily against them.
Gregor Townsend’s side underlined their new-found attacking intent last weekend with six tries in their 44-38 success over Samoa but they’ll need an unprecedented and unbelievable performance to finally topple the world champions.
The Scots have faced the All Blacks 30 times in Tests and are yet to win.
WATCH | Only 4 days to go until the match with New Zealand at BT Murrayfield. Are you excited yet? pic.twitter.com/n6mYSN3ZCa
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 14, 2017
Uncharacteristically, the Kiwis lost three times in the past 12 months – going down to Ireland, the Lions and most recently Australia – but they’re still red hot favourites at Murrayfield at 1/20. Scotland are 23/2 to rewrite the record books.
Townsend’s starting XV against Samoa at least came through with clean bill of health.
New Zealand arrive in Edinburgh fresh from back-to-back victories over France but rocked by the news first-choice hooker Dane Coles is out for six months with a knee injury.
Ireland v Fiji | 18 November
Ireland’s irresistible, record-breaking 38-3 demolition of South Africa was the standout display from last weekend’s action.
It’s all but impossible to imagine Fiji succeeding in Dublin this Saturday where the Springboks so spectacularly failed.
The brief history of the fixture also strongly suggests a landslide victory for Joe Schmidt’s team.
The two countries have met only three times previously and Ireland have never failed to score less than 40 points in a trio of wins. Add in the four tries they created against South Africa and the home side look a safe bet to make it a miserable afternoon for the Fijians at the Aviva.
Irish back-rowers Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy have both been called up after injuries to Tommy O’Donnell and Dan Leavy.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 14, 2017
Highly-rated 22-year-old Leinster starlet Joey Carbery could deputise for provincial team-mate Johnny Sexton at fly-half.
Fiji warmed up for their Dublin assignment with a 19-10 defeat to Italy last weekend. The last time they faced Home Nations opposition was in June this year when they beat Scotland 27-22 in Suva.
Wales v Georgia | 18 November
Wales and Georgia have never met at Test level but with the two countries drawn together in Pool D of the 2019 World Cup, Saturday’s maiden encounter in Cardiff should be a fascinating one as both teams make their initial introductions.
“The new boys will play with a lot of passion and a lot of heart as they haven’t played a lot of games for their country so that’s a double edged sword”@GeorgianRugby coach Milton Haig is cautious on what to expect from Wales #WALvGEO pic.twitter.com/i437hGB7HB
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 15, 2017
The mood in the Welsh camp this week has been far from buoyant following their 13th successive defeat to Australia on Saturday, the team’s fourth loss in seven games. The news centre Jonathan Davies is out for six months with an ankle injury only added to the misery.
Coach Warren Gatland is expected to make a raft of changes given the perceived weakness of the opposition but his side are nonetheless 1/14 to get the job done while the visitors are 8/1 to record what would be their first-ever win from the Six Nations.
A cautionary note, however, must be struck for any Welsh fan tempted to start the party early. Georgia are indeed minnows compared to the top tier nations but they’ve featured in four World Cups and are ranked 12th in the most recent World Rugby rankings. Wales are only five places above them in seventh.