New Zealand v Wales
Wales once again showed that they can mix it with the best last week, but yet again they only showed it for a short amount of time. The second half they were simply blitzed and only a late surge gave the score line some form of respectability.
This weekend is surely a bridge too far now and the three heavy defeats on the spin will make this a nigh on impossible task for Warren Gatland to lift his men as they go to Dunedin.
Gatland has lost some important members of his pack as Gethin Jenkins and Bradley Davies flew home this week, with the former leaving a gaping hole in the front row that the All Blacks will look to exploit.
Steve Hansen has made five changes to his starting line-up but the one that will strike fear the most is Beauden Barrett coming in at fly half. He will push the tempo to the max and with Wales already looking like they are on the ropes then Barrett may just have a field day against those weary Welsh legs.
New Zealand by 25
Australia v England
England created history last weekend in Melbourne as they took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, but for Eddie Jones and his record book writers this simply isn’t enough for them to be satisfied.
At times, it was very much backs to wall in defence as they repelled wave after wave of Australian attack but their cause was also helped by the basic errors that plagued the host’s game in attack.
Nick Phipps was probably the guiltiest party on this front as his service from scrum-half simply wasn’t good enough. It’s surprising to some that he has kept his place but the addition of Matt Toomua will be a welcome sight to Wallaby fans. Bernard Foley is a different proposition with a ball handling inside centre outside him.
Will Skelton and Rob Simmons also come in for a new partnership in the second row hoping to add ballast to a faltering scrum.
For England just the one enforced change with Eddie Jones keeping good to his word that he won’t be handing out easy caps. Teimana Harrison comes in for the injured James Haskell and this could really have a greater effect on the game than expected. More competition at the breakdown and Harrison loves the ball in hand as well.
The Aussies will be fired up but the confidence oozing from the pores of this England side cannot be ignored. The game should be more open with the introduction of Toomua into the Australian backline but the Ford and Farrell axis should see England create more history.
England by 6
South Africa v Ireland
Ireland have been struck by injuries to two of their key players this week with Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw being replaced by Tiernan O’Halloran and Luke Marshall respectively. The return of the suspended CJ Stander is a major boost for them however and his carrying ability will be paramount to Ireland if they are to gain a victory here.
South Africa make two changes themselves. One is enforced by the injury of Duane Vermeulen as Warren Whiteley replaces him, whilst last week’s man of the match from the bench Ruan Combrinck replaces Lwazi Mvovo on the wing.
You have to wonder what effect last week’s comeback win for South Africa has had on this Irish squad and their mind set.
Injuries to two key players like Henshaw and Payne will weaken their attack significantly, so forward domination will be key for Ireland to gain a foothold. The set-piece has to be rock solid or else South Africa will have free reign to attack the inexperienced Irish back line.
The Springboks will look to continue where they left off in the final 20 minutes of last week and with that in mind I think their fresher legs will win out.
South Africa by 12
Japan v Scotland
Vern Cotter has made six changes to his side that lacked a little bit of cohesiveness last week as they stumbled across the line against an ill-disciplined and under strength Cherry Blossoms.
The Captain, Greig Laidlaw is dropped to the bench as Henry Pyrgos comes in to fill both the half back role and captaincy that Laidlaw has vacated.
Pyrgos should bring some zip to and pace around the breakdown which will help the Scots push the tempo and also keep the ball away from a Japanese pack that seemed hell bent on killing it every time the men in blue looked like getting on the front foot.
One thing that can be said for Japan though is that they are extremely tenacious, especially when defending in their own 22. They showed this last week and although their discipline overstepped the mark time and time again I don’t expect them to change the way they approach this one.
Pyrgos will be the difference though and quick ball will be more readily available as Scotland look to move the Japanese pack around and tire them as the game wears on.
Scotland by 15
How do you see the matches going? Share your predictions and give us your thoughts.
By Andy Daniel