Hello all! Only a quick update with the World Cup on and Royal Ascot about to finish, but I hope you’ve been well and you’ve been winning. This will be updated before 10.45 tomorrow with any luck.
New Zealand (-24) v France (+25)
Both New Zealand and France are in the rare position of having benefited from their series and bought out to go home reasonably happy with their summer’s work. That makes weighing up this third test particularly hard though, with New Zealand making a number of changes from the side that ground out a victory over a 14-man visiting outfit last week.
Only the tight five isn’t changed from last week with a very new look to the back division. Damian McKenzie gets his first Test start in the number 10 jersey outside Aaron Smith.
And there’s also a debut for the exciting Jack Goodhue, who played against the France XV on last year’s Northern Tour, partnering outside Sonny Bill Williams, who has made a remarkable return from injury.
There’s two explosive wingers out wide with Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane outside of Ben Smith and it remains to be seen how quickly they gel as a unit. All eyes are on McKenzie, who tried to repeat his exploits from the bench last week and proved to be unsuccessful in trying to change the pace of the game, whilst Goodhue has impressed for the Crusaders.
Jacques Brunel will be wondering what could have been had Les blues not suffered red cards at exactly the wrong time in the past two weeks, but he will be very happy with their defence performances last week and also the physicality of the pack to boot.
There have been minimal changes from the visitors, with the return of Wesley Fofana to the backline a welcome piece of news, but his partnership with Lamerat is the only change with Morgan Parra taking the captaincy. The French pack is unchanged and Kevin Gourdon, Yoann Maestri, Bernard Le Roux; Uini Atonio, and Camille Chat have all impressed during this tour.
A handicap of 23 looks large for the hosts on the evidence of the two games so far although the New Zealand winning margin could be best. They were never more than 20 points clear last week and the All Blacks were only 5 clear at the time of Paul Gabrillagues’s yellow card two weeks ago, and if a changed side needs time to gel then France could be more competitive.
With a number of changes, the All Blacks will count a lot on Ben Smith and the brilliantly tidy fullback can cross for a try. He was unlucky not to have a hatful at Eden Park but he did score and he used a deep set attacking play to get on board last week.
Advice: 1 pt New Zealand to win by 11-20 points (4/1 Betfred), 1 pt Ben Smith to score a try (7/4 Betfred)
Australia (+4) v Ireland -4)
This has been the series of the summer so far and the only certainty today is that the decide ought to be thrillingly close. Both sides have shown their best form in taking two test victories, with Australia striking first but Ireland responding with a number of changes and a marked rise in intensity over the last two weeks.
The Wallabies’ 18-9 victory to open the series was deserved, with David Pocock having one of the standout performances of the summer so far. His try was also followed up with 15 tackles, two lineout wins, four turnovers won and an outstanding 56 ruck involvements (including 15 poach attempts). That said, Ireland were not without their chances; CJ Stander crossed twice but was held up on one occasion and knocked on after a lung busting break.
A number of changes were made by the visitors for the second test at AAMI, with a new-look front row with Cian Healy, Niall Scannell and Tadhg Furlong amongst a number of forward changes whilst Johnny Sexton returned at flyhalf. Those changes eventually worked, with Ireland reverting to type and using a powerful, tight, forward based game to rob Australia f the chance to open up. Pocock was negated brilliantly by O’Mahony and Dan Leavy whilst Ireland’s increased intensity in the carry eventually gave them the platform for a win.
There have been tweaks once again to the sides; Michael Chieka has named 6’6″ and 19.5 stone lock Lukhan Tui in at blindside flanker to challenge at the Irish lineout and give more ballast to Australia’s carry. Pocock has moved to eight, meaning that the ‘Pooper’ combination that has caused so much trouble for opposing sides is reunited, essentially giving the Wallabies three flankers.
The other change of note is an enforced one but sadly Will Genia broke his arm last weekend. That is a blow for the Wallabies but Nick Phipps has 67 tests under his belt and knows the Australian attacking backline inside out with Bernard Foley at 10 and Kurtley Beale at 12 in an attacking set that has been together for years.
In any case, Ireland have suffered the heavier injury blows. Missing Dan Leavy (sternum), Andrew Conway (hip) and Garry Ringrose (foot) are huge losses, with all three having been difference makers last week. Jack Conan starts at No.8 in a huge task while Peter O’Mahony moves to openside and CJ Stander starts at blindside, and there’s a big backline adjustment to boot.
Jacob Stockdale comes back into the back three alongside Keith Earls and Rob Kearney to replace Conway and Bundee Aki must attempt to stop Kurtley Beale in the same way Ringose did last week. Ross Bryne could also get a start from the bench – he has beaten Carberry to the 10 slot when Sexton is away and has a great turn of pace.
The margins between the side have been so incredibly fine during the series that the 27 available on Betfair for the draw is too good not to have onside either as a fixed odds bet or indeed a back to lay option. In the actual matchup, the Wallabies’ could have lost less in Genia than Ireland have in their three absentees and they can shade the series.
Advice: 3 pts Wallabies +4 (10/11 general), 1 pt Draw (25/1 Betfred, 22/1 general), 1 pt back to lay Draw (27 Betfair)
South Africa (-4) v England (+4)
20 years ago, this was the Tour From Hell for England, and whilst they’ve not had any of those same beatings this time around, a number of issues have come out of their tour with South Africa and they look set to leave empty handed in a 3-0 series defeat.
England travelled under a cloud that has now become a storm with on and off field issues that must be fixed before an Autumn series in which they will face the three SANZAR Nations and a resurgent Japan.
Unfortunately, injury has not helped them this week, with Brad Shields’ sickness calling Chris Robshaw back into the lineup, and with all due respect, taking away some of the bite from England’s backrow last week. A much bigger issues for them however is the absence of the Vunipola brothers, with Billy having fractured his arm once again and Mako heading home for family reasons. Billy is consistently England’s best source of go forward ball and has played a crucial part in their two impressive starts so far whilst Mako has done the same from the scrum and their absences hobble the English pack.
No 8 Nathan Hughes, loosehead Joe Marler and blindside Robshaw are good replacements but the English pack has been outpointed by their South African counterparts in nearly all areas.
Danny Cipriani’s start at 10 is much deserved and frankly coming too late given his form, and he can leave an imprint on the game with a high-quality back division that has actually been the standout of the tour. Johnny May, Elliot Daly, Mike Brown and Owen Farrell have all been great with ball in hand at times during this series but either haven’t lasted or had the support.
South Africa have made a number of changes with the series won, with full-back Warrick Gelant, centres Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen, and fly-half Elton Jantjies all brought in, but aside from Chiliboy Ralepelle the pack is almost the same as the one that’s dominated and the Springboks will hope to give the sometimes mercurial Jantjies a platform to kick on.
Wings S’busiso Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi scored three tries between them in the opening game and were heavily involved despite not scoring last week – both will be big threats out wide and the former could be the one for tryscorer bets. Duane Vermeulen, who has been a constant menace, scored last week and looks too big to do so again at 11/2 with SkyBet if this also becomes a grind as it was last week after England’s early blitz.
As for the match result, Cape Town, at sea level, ought to suit England, but their three injuries leave them lacking intensity in the carry and South Africa should again, be too good.
Advice: 5 pts South Africa -4 (10/11 general), 1 pt Duane Vermeulen to score a try (11/2 SkyBet)
Argentina (+6) v Scotland (+6)
This has been a bad Summer for Argentinean sport. Their footballers are on the verge of being eliminated from the World Cup in Russia and their rugby side has had a desperately disappointing summer. Hopes were high following the excellent performance of the Jaguares in Super Rugby but their two tests against Wales have ended in desperately heavy defeats where the Pumas could barely lay a hand on their visiting opposition, and they now face Scotland in a bid for redemption
Changes were a necessity following such poor performances and Daniel Hourcade will depart after the series. He has made seven changes from last week’s losing side and whilst Bautista Ezcurra and Sebastian Cancelliere are the only changes in the backline the pack has been changed significantly. Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Lezana, Pablo Matera, Matias Alemanno, Javier Diaz all come into the Pumas pack to add more energy and they could be boosted by a Scotland side that has an experimental feeling to it.
Eight changes have been made from the side that managed to squander a 21-6 halftime lead last week but it still has a light feel compared to their 6 Nations outfit with Gregor Townsend trying to develop plenty of depth. Half backs Adam Hastings and George Horne have just three caps together and will have a huge amount of responsibility behind a pack which has a more settle first team feel to it for all that playing Fraser Brown at blindside is a bold move to try and inject pace into the game.
This is hard to weigh up with two relatively new sides and it could be a real grind that suits the forwards. Augustin Creevy and David Denton are frequently involved in tight exchanges and both look big to get on the scoresheet.
Advice: 1 pt Augustin Creevy to score a try (4/1 general), 1 pt David Denton to score a try (6/1 SkyBet)