It’s great to have international rugby back and we know that with World Ranking points on the line for Rugby World Cup seedings there are no soft games. Here are my predictions for the opening round of games.
First here is a link to my preview of action in this international window.
Here is my 30 second One Line Predictions, for the full reasons read below. By the way, on reflection I changed my mind about Romania v Uruguay
Samoa v Georgia
For Samoa the real business of this window will be the 2 games against Fiji and Tonga as these count towards 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification. This will obviously be a key warm up game for that. This is a great opportunity for Georgia to get 3 high quality games in. Unfortunately they are handicapped by the Top14 finals that are on going and will be missing key players. Due to that loss of players and being away from home in a very different environment I’m backing the home side to win.
Samoa by 7
Fiji v Tonga
This is the first game for these sides in their attempt to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Fiji were in the pool of death last year and Tonga famously lost to Georgia. So for both these teams it’s a matter of re-grouping and looking rise like a phoenix out of the flames. With Fiji at home and being the more consistent side, I’m backing a close home win.
Fiji by 5
New Zealand v Wales
As we can see from the below poll not many people give Wales much of a chance. Having lost to England recently and not performing as well as many of us expected in the 6 Nations this isn’t a surprise. Also the All Blacks are the Rugby World Champions and clearly the best in the world. Even though the All Blacks have lost a bunch of senior players I can only see them winning very comfortably at Eden Park which is a fortress for them. The only chink of light is that the All Blacks as traditionally slow starters at the beginning of the International season.
On #RugbyChat we did come up with 5 areas of All Blacks weakness that Wales can target.
New Zealand by 25
Australia v England
The series that is causing the most discussion and press is Eddie Jones taking England to Australia. It doesn’t matter which sport it is clashes between these 2 sides are always eagerly anticipated. Both sides are in a period of transition and there are open questions about positions for both teams. I think off the back of a successful 6 Nations grand slam England will take narrow victory.
England by 3
South Africa v Ireland
Ireland have never won against the Boks in South Africa and add to that injuries in key positions and it’s a big ask. The Ireland side is relatively settled outside those injuries but Sexton is such a big part of their game plan. For South Africa it’s a new coach and new era. I’m fully expecting them to win comfortably and the main interest is going to be seeing the Boks playing style. Are we going to see a traditional game plan or will they be influenced by the Lions more expansive play?
South Africa by 15
Argentina v Italy
Italy were poor in the 6 Nations and so again this is looking like another relatively comfortable home win. The big question for me is how much with the series of losses that the Jags have endured impact the national side? Will they get the balance right between forward platform and expansive play? I think the opportunity to stay at home for a month will be a huge bonus and we should expect performances to improve.
Argentina by 10
Canada v Japan
Mark Anscombe has hardly got his feet under the table and now has to play host to the giant killers of the Rugby World Cup. For Japan it’s a strange time as they wait for their new coach to finish his Highlanders commitments. Hammett will take charge and provide continuity between the Sunwolves and the National side. All reports are he’s doing a good job with the Super Rugby side and that preparation should be enough for Japan to register a win.
Japan by 7
Namibia v Spain
The next 2 games are taking place on Monday after the weekend of high profile action. These aren’t sides that I know much about so I’m backing Namibia who were at the Rugby World Cup and rank 1 place higher at 21.
Namibia by 5
Romania v Uruguay
Again another 2 teams that I’m not that aware of. Both were at the Rugby World Cup and Romania came second to Georgia in the European Nations Cup this year. Uruguay won 3 of their games in the Americas Rugby Championship to come 4th. Either way I’m going with the home side who rank 16th in the world to Uruguay’s 20th.
Romania by 7
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