Last weekend Ireland hammered Argentina to provide a rare ray of sunshine in what has been a crushingly disappointing Autumn series for the home nations. Scotland finished with no victories from 3 matches, ending with an embarrassingly inept performance to a Tongan side that has vastly fewer resources to draw on. This weekend, Wales and England are in action, looking to salvage something from the wreckage of their respective autumns.
England vs New Zealand
After two disappointing defeats to Australia and South Africa, England’s final game sees them face New Zealand, the world’s no.1 side. England fans will be hoping to see plenty of precocious young talent Freddie Burns, who has been called into the squad after injury to first choice fly-half Toby Flood. Owen Farrell, a far more conservative choice, is likely to start, however. Courtney Lawes will also be welcomed back into the squad, after Mouritz Botha’s costly lapse in concentration last week has seen him ruthlessly sent back to his club.
The All Blacks have barely reached second gear this autumn, dispatching Scotland with ease at Murrayfield before seeing off Italy and beating Wales at a canter last weekend. They are likely to be missing hooker Andrew Hore, who has been cited for his cynical strike against Wales lock Bradley Davies last Saturday. They are hopeful, however, that fly-half Dan Carter will be available after he announced he expects to recover from his Achilles and calf problems in time for the weekend. This is not good news for England, as the man widely regarded as one of best backs ever to grace a rugby pitch has been in scintillating form so far this autumn.
Unsurprisingly, New Zealand are heavy favourites across the board, with Bet Victor and 888sport currently offering the best odds on an All Black victory at 1/10. If you’re feeling brave (or perhaps you’ve been swept away in a sea of naïve patriotism) and fancy a punt on England, Paddy Power, Stan James, and Bet365 will all offer you odds of 7/1 on a home victory.
Wales vs Australia
Wales’ final game for the autumn series sees them take on the Wallabies, in what is likely to be a much closer game. Whilst they were convincingly beaten by the All Blacks last weekend, there were signs that they were back on the right track after having suffered ignominious defeats to Argentina and Samoa. Centre Jon Davies is likely to be vital to their efforts in attack, being one of the few men to have made a clean break through the New Zealand line this autumn.
For Australia, giant lock Sitaleki Timani has been ruled out after being hit with a one week suspension for striking an opponent in their narrow 22-19 victory over Italy last weekend. It has been a mixed Northern Hemisphere tour for the Wallabies, who have snuck past Italy and England after having been demolished by France in Paris. Kurtley Beale has started to look more assured in his role as fly-half, after being humiliated in that fateful France game. If he is firing then the Australians have plenty of attacking talent to hurt Wales.
Wales’ series of defeats means all bookmakers are making Australia fairly comfortable favourites, with 888sport offering best odds at 4/6 on a Wallaby victory. If you fancy a Wales win, meanwhile, which might not be a bad shout after they showed significant signs of revival last week, Bet365, Sky Bet, Bet Victor, Paddy Power and Stan James will all offer you 11/8 on a home win.
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