The Rugby World Cup is just TWO weeks away! There are lots of big teams in action this weekend, although frankly most of these matches look incredibly one-sided.
The Ireland v Wales rematch in Dublin looks like the most interesting fixture, and it’s a tough one to call.
Here are my predictions for the final batch of warm-up matches this weekend.
Japan v South Africa
Rassie Erasmus has picked a very strong Springbok team as they arrive in Japan looking to make a mark immediately. It’s testament to the depth that South Africa have developed that the bench also looks incredibly strong and there will be no repeat of the Brighton Miracle here.
South Africa by 28
Scotland v Georgia
Having put 44 points on Georgia in Tbilisi, you’d expect a comfortable home win here. There are a few different personnel involved, particularly with Adam Hastings at fly-half rather than Finn Russell, but this should still be a big win at Murrayfield.
Scotland by 33
England v Italy
Much like the Springboks, England have some incredible depth in their squad, with every lineup in these RWC warm-ups looking formidable. Italy are resting some of their big names, and I fear for them in this exhibition match in Newcastle.
England could well run riot with incredible pace in the back three featuring Ruaridh McConnochie (hopefully), Jonny May and Anthony Watson. In the Six Nations, Italy often play a damage-limitation gameplan against the only side they’ve never beaten, but in this ‘meaningless’ warm up with a second-string line-up for the Azzurri, it could be a very open game that will play into England’s hands.
As usual, England have a huge mobile pack, with Billy Vunipola starting his 4th game in a row for reasons that only Eddie Jones can fathom. Why not put Mark Wilson at 8, given that he’s the only cover in the squad, and give Tom Curry and Sam Underhill another run-out? I’m not too sure how much we’ll learn this evening, and I suspect it’s going to be incredibly one-sided.
England by 43
New Zealand v Tonga
This is a very strong All Blacks lineup, although there isn’t really a weak one, and this is likely to be a long game for the Tongans who were beaten by Fiji last weekend.
New Zealand by 61
Australia v Samoa
David Pocock plays his first game for several months and Bernard Foley is at fly-half for Australia, and this should be another comfortable home win. A few familiar names line up for Samoa, such as Tim Nanai-Williams and Jack Lam, but the gulf between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations remains sizeable.
Australia by 37
Ireland v Wales
This is the first tricky pick of the round, with both sides fielding almost first-choice lineups. There is more pressure on Ireland as the home team, and particularly as they continue to persuade people that the Twickenham drubbing was an anomaly – a win over a strong Wales team would be a huge confidence boost in their final warm-up game. A defeat at home on the other hand…
Ireland by 2
Canada v USA
The Americans have had the upper hand over the neighbours in recent meetings, with the most recent being a 47-19 thrashing in the Pacific Nations Cup in July. The match is in Vancouver, but picking the USA seems like the safest bet.
USA by 7