The month of Autumn Internationals beginning this weekend represents the start of the International season for the Northern Hemisphere sides and the end of a long season for the Southern Hemisphere teams and a valuable staging post for all teams to measure progress halfway towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The three big games this weekend, with all prices from Bet365, are
England v Argentina
England begin with the first of three theoretically winnable games, against Argentina, Australia and Samoa, which really should extend England’s unbeaten home record under Eddie Jones, who is bluntly challenging his players to make the next step as they look to solidify their position as serious World Cup contenders.
Argentina finished bottom of the recent Rugby Championship, without a win in their six games and conceding on average nearly 40 points a game and are hamstrung by a really tough travel schedule. They must be near the end of their resources at the end of a long hard season
England are price prohibitively here at 1/12, Argentina as 10/1 outsiders. England are -19 on the points handicap.19 points doesn’t leave much room for maneuver but I would rather take -19 than Argentina +19 given the form of the visitors.
Wales v Australia
Wales may have dropped the talisman of recent years Jamie Roberts from their squad for the autumn internationals as they ponder playing two fly-halves, but Saturday’s opponents, Australia, are expecting their usual physical workout in Cardiff.
Australia have won their past 12 internationals against Wales (including last year 32-8) since losing in 2008 but they arrived in Wales on Monday battle-hardened, if weary after a 16-hour journey from Japan, and buoyed by a Bledisloe Cup victory in Brisbane over New Zealand in October
The two meet in the 2019 World Cup in Japan. It will be the fourth time they have been pooled together with Wales yet to win. Victory for Australia on Saturday would not only extend the Wallabies’ winning run in the fixture to 13 but give them a psychological advantage before the September 2019 meeting in Tokyo.
Unfortunately for this match Wales are injury hit and do not yet have the depth of the pool of players to withstand such losses.
Wales are likely to field an unfamiliar back row with Justin Tipuric yet to train since suffering a thigh injury last month. With the Lions’ captain, Sam Warburton, out until the new year and the player who stood in at openside against Samoa in the summer, Ellis Jenkins, also injured, Wales’s options if Tipuric fails to make the training field by Thursday morning are Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler and Sam Cross, who have 13 caps between them.
The scrum-half Rhys Webb, a summer Lion along with Tipuric, is also a doubt having sat out training since suffering a knee injury playing for Ospreys against Clermont Auvergne last month.
Wales are 6/5 at betting sites for this game, narrow underdogs to Australia at 8/11. Australia should be shorter than 8/11 and can either be backed outright or at -2 on the points handicap at 10/11.
Ireland v South Africa
It is a year since Je Schmidt’s side beat the All Blacks in Chicago and, like England, they will be keen to produce another resounding message. Ireland followed that huge upset win with a second place finish in the 2017 six Nations with 3 wins in their five games.
They play to a set style and are difficult to beat at home. They also have emerging talent being introduced into the team around an experienced core
South Africa are an improving side from the disappointing outfit of 2015-16. In the recent rugby championship, they beat Argentina home and away and incredibly drew home and away to Australia. Against New Zealand, they lost 57-0 early in the competition but only lost 24-25 at Cape Town in their final game
Normally a very abrasive workmanlike side they are adding some flair in attack though lack a real distributor at centre but for this type of game, likely to be close and a keen contest in the forwards that is less of an issue. Hooker Malcolm Marx is one of the emerging stars of the world game
Ireland are priced as 8/13 favourites here and South Africa 7/4 and +4 on the handicap at 10/11 at many green listed bookmakers. I like the visitors, whether outright or on the handicap to win/cover here