Here are my SportGuru predictions for the weekend’s games, with one or two tricky picks to make.
Italy v Argentina
This is one of the hardest games to pick this weekend, with two fairly evenly-matched sides on paper. I can’t see this being a classic high-scoring match, since the new law interpretations don’t really suit either side, so I might not watch this one. Without doing a huge amount of analysis, I’m going with the home side on the basis that their Magners League showing has been impressive so far, and they are always difficult to beat at home. Italy by 5
England v Australia
There’s a separate preview article for this game, but my optimistic view is that England will win. I don’t necessarily think the English pack will dominate, since the Wallaby front row is being hugely underrated by the media, but I think there’s a slight edge. England will try to control possession, and if they can do something with it as they did in the summer, and as they tried to do last week, they should exploit the potential weaknesses in the Australian defence. England by 5. Full preview here.
Wales v South Africa
I do think Wales have a chance in this match, and I thought South Africa were extremely lucky to win last week. The Welsh backline looks reasonable again, but the Boks have a significant edge in the back row, which could prevent quick ball for the home side. I can see the Boks dominating possession and forcing another victory. South Africa by 8. Full preview here.
Ireland v Samoa
Plenty of changes for Ireland this week, but it’s by no means an experimental side. There is lots of experience everywhere, reflecting the absolute necessity of winning this game before the All Blacks arrive next week. Samoa will be tough to beat with a team full of familiar names, but surely Ireland will have too much class to be beaten by physicality. Ireland by 13 Full preview here.
France v Fiji
I’m looking forward to seeing the French play this season, as I think Marc Lievremont is developing his squad into World Cup contenders, albeit in a slightly unusual manner. It’s another experimental side full of changes, but Imanol Harinordoquy, David Marty, Maxime Medard, Fulgence Ouedraogo and Jerome Thion are familiar enough and good enough to dispatch Fiji. The Fijians have had minimal preparation, only assembling their squad in the last few days, so I can’t see this being an upset. France by 23
Scotland v New Zealand
The Scots have the potential to cause some teams problems, and if this were their last fixture of the Autumn, I’d expect it to be closer. Like England last week, they will probably be rusty, meaning that their conversion rate on a small number of chances is likely to be low. The All Blacks are pretty much at full strength, and you got the impression that they had another gear or two spare last week, just in case England did manage to close the gap. New Zealand by 18
What are your thoughts? Are any of them wildly far of the mark?