Wales v Australia – 1.30am (AEDT), Sunday, November 6 @ Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Have the Wallabies fixed their No.6 problem? David Pocock will don the jersey this weekend after Dean ‘Captain Pushy’ Mumm was handed a one-match suspension for being a grub. Michael Hooper will play openside with Lopeti Timani continuing at No.8.
This should provide the Wallabies with some turnover ball while also slowing the Wales attack with two fetchers – although it is questionable if Hooper is a fetcher or just another back.
It seems likely that they will play left and right at scrum-time which should work effectively. It’s reminiscent of the George Smith/Phil Waugh tactic that Australia employed in the early-2000s.
Tevita Kuridrani returns for the injured Samu Kerevi at outside centre, and the Wallabies shouldn’t lose too much with that switch, but Will Genia was denied leave by his French club in a harsh setback.
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) November 3, 2016
Wales have a great nucleus of experienced and talented players in their team, sticking with the same line-up for several years now. They put up a good fight against the All Blacks back in June, but they will be missing arguably their three best players: Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones will not be playing in this Test, for varying reasons.
But they still have their devastating midfield of Jamie Roberts and Johnathan Davies, while Leigh Halfpenny will return to fullback after an extended time off with injury. Huge wing pairing Alex Cuthbert and George North will start out wide, with World Cup star Dan Bigger calling the shots at 10.
‘I’ve missed it a heck of a lot. I can’t wait for Saturday’ — Leigh Halfpenny https://t.co/MFILyhojR2
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) November 3, 2016
In the forwards, prop Gareth Jenkins will take the captain’s armband, with experienced players Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris supporting their skipper in the engine-room.
Wales haven’t beaten the Wallabies since 2008, losing 11 games in the interim – most recently in their gripping World Cup pool match at Twickenham last year. They are formidable hosts, however, and have had the same team since 2011 – five years together should help them against an Australian outfit looking for continuity. Losing three key players is a huge blow but they should put up a good fight.
The Wallabies are still finding their way and looked solid against the All Blacks two weeks ago – easily their best effort against the dominant world champs this year. The scoreline didn’t show their determination and commitment in that game. If they show that type of form and the revitalised Israel Folau repeats his performance, the tourists should win this game easily.
The neutrals may be hoping for a Wales win here as they have been luckless in their outings against the Wallabies for the past eight years, but I think Australia will have too much attacking flair for the Welsh team.
PREDICTION: Wallabies 1-12
Ireland v New Zealand – 7.00am (AEDT), Sunday, November 6 @ Soldier Field, Chicago
The All Blacks take on Ireland this weekend, playing at Chicago’s Soldier Field for the second time in their history.
Steve Hansen and co are not taking this game lightly and have only named one surprise in their starting 15. Jerome Kaino will play at lock for this Test, with Patrick Tuipolotu partnering him in the row.
Both second-row incumbents, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, are out injured. Scott Barrett, brother of Beauden, will get a potential debut from the bench. Liam Squire will take the number 6 jersey, while George Moala gets another crack at outside centre with Anton Lienert-Brown getting a well-earned spell.
Israel Dagg also gets a break with Waisake Naholo playing on the right wing. All the talk was who was going to start in the No.10, but Barrett gets the jersey again after having a questionable game at Eden Park in his last outing. Aaron Smith is back from the toilets – I mean, from his suspension, and he will be eager to cement his mantle as the best halfback in the world after missing three straight Tests.
“We know Ireland will be gunning for us”
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 1, 2016
Ireland unleash a solid team to play in Chicago , highlighted by New Zealander Jared Payne at centre. Payne was in the mix for All Blacks contention before he left for Ireland, qualifying through the three-year residential rule.
In-form Johnny Sexton will be in the 10 jersey, partnered by Conor Murray at halfback. Rory Best will captain the team at hooker; he is renowned for being one of the best in his position and is set for a titanic battle with Dane Coles. Monster No.8 Jamie Heaslip will look to be the main ball-carrier for the Irish pack, but Sean O’Brien’s injury absence is a blow for the underdogs.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 3, 2016
The All Blacks have sometimes struggled against their Irish counterparts, including an after-the-siren 24-22 win in their last clash at Aviva Stadium in 2013 (Aaron Cruden got to kick a conversion twice) and a 22-19 win in Christchurch a year earlier after Dan Carter sunk a drop goal in the closing minutes.
The Irish are a passionate bunch, but after 111 years of never beating the All Blacks you would think confidence would be down, particularly after a bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign last year and a subpar Six Nations showing at the start of 2016. They did have one draw against New Zealand in 1973, but most of you reading this weren’t born then.
If this was played in Ireland it would be a much closer match, but playing at a neutral ground the class and form of New Zealand should play dividends and a big margin looms for the world champs’ 19th straight win.
PREDICTION: All Blacks 13+