The shadow of the Rugby World Cup looms large this weekend as the four Home Union sides welcome their respective guests from the southern hemisphere.
With less than two years before Japan hosts the ninth edition of the tournament, time is already running out for Europe’s challengers to fine-tune their preparations.
Rugby Union betting expert Iain Spragg previews this one…
England v Argentina | 11 Nov 14:30
Eddie Jones and his resurgent England team face Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday with both sides acutely aware they’ll cross swords again in Tokyo in Pool C of the World Cup.
The Red Rose are on an eight-match winning run against the Pumas – including victory in the two Test series this summer – and it’s no surprise that despite injuries to stars including Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May, the home side are red hot favourites at 1/16 to extend the sequence at HQ.
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
This is the Game of Our Lives: https://t.co/sre0Of9uCx pic.twitter.com/ntHkxoGPPT
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 7, 2017
Argentina’s last success against England came back in 2009 and fresh from finishing rock bottom of the recent Rugby Championship with six defeats in six, they’re no better than 15/2 to inflict what would be only the second loss of Jones’ 20-game reign as head coach.
Anglo-Argentine clashes are rarely for the faint hearted and the last time they met in London last autumn Elliot Daly became only the fifth Englishman to be sent off in a Test match.
In August Pumas lock Tomás Lavanini got his marching orders against South Africa in Salta and it’s 8/1 on another red card for either side at HQ on Saturday.
It’s 1/20 on all 30 of the players safely staying on the pitch for the duration.
Wales v Australia | 11 Nov 17:15
Wales’ game against Australia at the Principality Stadium is another dress rehearsal for a World Cup group stage fixture in Japan in 2019.
READ: Shaun Edwards on @qantaswallabies threat as countdown to Saturday begins #WALvAUS https://t.co/L6vnGDjrPu pic.twitter.com/NKzlXjumVm
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 6, 2017
Warren Gatland will desperately be hoping it’s 13th time lucky for his troops in Cardiff this weekend after their demoralising 12-match losing sequence against the Wallabies.
The prospects of Michael Cheika’s side, runners-up in the Rugby Championship and recent victors over the All Blacks in Brisbane, prolonging Welsh misery with victory in the Principality is rated 3/5, while the home side are priced 13/10 to finally put an end to the tourists’ long-standing dominance.
Gatland has called up five uncapped players for the autumn internationals but the loss of flanker Sam Warburton and wing George North to injury, as well as lingering fitness doubts over scrum-half Rhys Webb and back rower Justin Tipuric, could prove pivotal as Wales look to record a rare triumph against one of the southern hemisphere big three.
The first score in Cardiff will be huge and Wales are 23/25 to get it, the Aussies slightly shorter at 17/20.
The home side are 6/5 to register the first try, the tourists 7/10, while the odds on the final scoreline reflect the Wales recent struggles against the Wallabies – Gatland’s boys are 9/4 to win by 1-12 points, Cheika’s team 33/20 to come out on top by the same margin.
Ireland v South Africa | 11 Nov 17:30
The toughest game of the weekend to call is Ireland’s showdown with South Africa in Dublin despite the betting having Joe Schmidt’s team clear overall favourites at 12/25 and the Springboks out at 13/8.
Training Day. The Ireland team trained at @CartonHouse this morning. Looking good in the new @canterburyNZ kit #TeamOfUs #ShoulderToShoulder pic.twitter.com/nAZGsBDU1f
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 7, 2017
There’s no argument that the Irish are notoriously difficult to beat at the Aviva Stadium– only the All Blacks have managed it since the start of 2016 – but a record of five wins and five defeats in their last ten meetings with South Africa suggests there’s precious little to choose between the two teams.
The most recent fixture saw the Springboks emerge 19-13 winners in Port Elizabeth in June last year and Allister Coetzee’s team are 7/5 to repeat the trick this Saturday and triumph in Dublin by seven points or less. Intriguingly and despite their tag as favourites, Ireland are exactly the same price to wrap up the victory by the same margin.
Scotland v Samoa | 11 Nov 14:30
It’s a brave new world for Scottish rugby with Gregor Townsend the new head coach following the departure of Vern Cotter and after the team’s best return in the Six Nations for 11 years followed by a historic win in Sydney over the Wallabies in the summer, masterminded by Townsend, hopes of a convincing win over Samoa this weekend are high.
New Scotland squad additions Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland and Magnus Bradbury get to grips with their first day in camp at Oriam #AsOne pic.twitter.com/9P4llap2Zq
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 6, 2017
Townsend has drafted 10 uncapped players for the autumn internationals but despite the influx of inexperience, Scotland are overwhelming favourites at 1/20 for the victory.
Samoa, still licking their wounds after failing to qualify for the World Cup, are 17/2 to record what would be their first-ever win at Murrayfield.
The draw – which would emulate their 15-15 stalemate in Edinburgh back in 1995 – is a potentially lucrative 45/1.
*Odds are subject to change. Check the most up-to-date odds on Grosvenor Sport.
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