This weekend the November international rugby window kicks off in earnest, with four mouth-watering clashes between the Rugby Championship and 6-Nations teams. Australia will look to make it 14 wins in a row against Wales, Argentina will hope to stay competitive against Ireland, South Africa will try and atone for last weekend’s loss against France and New Zealand will look to smack down an increasingly arrogant England.
Last weekend saw the start of the Southern Hemisphere tours, although Australia did not play, New Zealand sent a second string side to face Japan and South Africa, who lost an attritional match against England, were without a number of their stars as the match fell outside the official window and English clubs refused to release the players.
England and New Zealand will be the most watched match of the round, although most serious rugby watchers give the English Roses little chance. That hasn’t prevented the team, led by loudmouth coach Eddie Jones, and the English press from talking up their chances. The All Blacks will be quietly motivated to hand out a thrashing, just to make the English media shut up for a few weeks.
Wales and Australia will be an intriguing clash. The Welsh finished second in the 6 Nations, behind Ireland, and are ranked third in the world while Australia are 6th. The Wallabies have a 13 match winning streak against Wales, however. This match also serves as a World Cup preview, as the two will meet in the pool stages, with the winner likely to be in the much easier half of the draw.
Argentina shouldn’t hold much fear for an Irish side that is clearly the second best in the world at the moment – and is the only team that could realistically push past the All Blacks in the next few months. Argentina have shown that they can capitalise on sloppy defence by their opponents, but Ireland are unlikely to give them that chance.
South Africa will start as favourites against a mercurial French side, despite their single point loss to England last week. With a number of star players returning for this clash they are likely to be able to capitalise on any advantage in territory and possession, which they did not against England. Their forward pack advantage will be bolstered by the returning backline talent.