Rugby Preview: Autumn Internationals first week

The Autumn internationals kick-off this weekend with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all in action against opposition from the Southern hemisphere.

Below we run through each game along with a Bookmakers pick from Unibet, who also bring us the odds for each game.

England v Argentina

Reigning Six Nations champions England will begin their Old Mutual Wealth Autumn International Series on Saturday with Argentina the visitors at rugby headquarters, Twickenham for a traditional 3pm kick-off.

England retained their European crown in spring before 10 members of their squad went on to represent the British & Irish Lions in the drawn summer series against New Zealand, all of which are included in the match day 26 this weekend, while Eddie Jones’ upcoming stars were given their chance to set up to the plate with a summer tour to Argentina.

Back-to-back triumphs over Los Pumas took their winning streak over the host nation to eight and nobody would be backing against England to claim a ninth successive win against Argentina this weekend.

In the 22 Test contests between the nations, England have run out triumphant on 17 occasions, with Argentina picking up just four wins and one draw, making the hosts outstanding favourites at Twickenham.

England XV: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Elliot Daly; 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Danny Care, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni

Argentina XV: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli; 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Martin Landajo; 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Sebastian Cancellere

Prediction: England need to, and should, execute a significant victory over Argentina. England by 25 would not be a bad shout here
Match odds: England 1/25 Argentina 11/1
Unibet pick: Argentina +17.5 @ 57/50
Although England are clearly deserved very short priced favourites at 1/18, the last 2 instalments of this fixture, although in Argentina, have been settled by 10 points or less and the last on home soil for England was a 13 point game.
For the less risk averse: Home Team Score First and Win @ 12/25

Scotland v Samoa

Scotland welcome a beleaguered Samoa to Murrayfield on Saturday looking to extend on a fine 2017 display as Gregor Townsend takes charge of his first home clash.

Samoa arrive in the United Kingdom having had their national rugby board claiming bankruptcy, but the Home Nations have pledged their support to ensure the autumn internationals go ahead by covering all the squad’s costs, yet Scotland, who have won eight of the 10 meetings between the nations, will not be taking any pity on the field.

Having claimed victories over Ireland, Wales and Australia in the calendar year, Scotland are buoyant and the Townsend era offers a fresh lease of hope, and the former Glasgow Warriors coach will head coach will be looking for a significant display from an ever-growing squad, featuring the likes of Stuart Hogg – the Six Nations player of the tournament, Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Finn Russell, John Barclay and Jonny Gray – all players of quality.

Samoa will be expansive and physical as is their nature, you will not see them relent in seeking attacking rugby, but for all their flair, Scotland should exude their strength and put this one to bed.

Scotland XV: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones; 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price; 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Chris Harris

Samoa XV: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi; 10 Tim Nanai Williams, 9 Pele Cowley; 8 Jack Lam, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Piula Fa’Asalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jordan Lay
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Fa’Atiga Lemalu, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Mealani Matavao, 22 Aj Alatimu, 23 Alapati Leiua

Prediction: While the neutrals will be rooting for Samoa given their torrid times, Scotland should edge this one by five on home soil
Match odds: Scotland 1/50 Samoa 13/1
Unibet pick: Scotland -21.5 @ 5/6

With Scotland players surely looking to impress new coach Gregor Townsend’s in his first home game, this looks a tough assignment for Samoa

Wales v Australia

Australia travel to Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday seeking to extend their hex over Wales, who have not beaten the Wallabies since 2008.

Over the course of almost a decade, Australia have chalked up 12 victories over Wales, with this autumn international set to extend the streak through to 13, given the strength of this Wallabies 23.

Wales are without dynamic scrum-half Rhys Webb, who failed to recovery from injury in time, but do have Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies in their backline, albeit it seems lacking when you compare with the names of Kurtley Beale, Tevita Kuridrani, Bernard Foley and Will Genia who will don the golden yellow.

The Wallabies’ greatest strength is in captain and ball-winning extraordinaire Michael Hooper, who will be combative and dogged as ever, giving Wales not an inch of room to work with at the breakdown. 

Wales XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Hallam Amos

Australia XV: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge; 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia; 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight

Prediction: Home advantage may have some influence for Wales, but Australia’s flair will most likely prove too much for the hosts to handle. Wallabies by 10
Match odds: 33/20 12/25
Unibet pick: Australia @ 12/25

With Wales’ terrible recent record against the Wallabies, losing the last 12 games between the nations, home advantage may not be enough here

Ireland v South Africa

Ireland will seek to put their Rugby World Cup hosting bid woes behind them and claim a resounding victory against South Africa, incidentally the side who came top of World Rugby’s evaluation report to host the 2023 edition of the competition.

While Ireland’s bidding committee continue to process a complaint about the decision, Joe Schmidt’s men will have all attention on the field, with a considerable challenge set before them, with the Springboks desperate to comeback after a miserly Rugby Championship display.

South Africa won, lost and drew in equal measure across their six games in the Southern Hemisphere showpiece, only beating Argentina, but Ireland will be a greater challenge.

British & Lions half-bakcs Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray stand at the heart for Ireland and New Zealand-born Bundee Aki debuts, making for a potent looking backline, which should tear through this stuttering Springbok outfit.

Ireland XV: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale; 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 James Ryan, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Darren Sweetnam

South Africa XV: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje; 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Francois Venter

Prediction: Dublin will come alive Saturday night for this one and a partisan Aviva Stadium crown will roar Ireland home to victory, expect them to run seven clear
Match odds: Ireland 12/25 South Africa 33/20
Unibet pick: South Africa @ 33/20

Although form stats would suggest Ireland are the team to beat here, it is fair to say that South Africa have come up against significantly stronger opposition in recent games, playing Australia and New Zealand twice each in their last 4 games, which could work in their favour here. Ireland have overcome Japan twice and USA in that period. They did also overcome an England team who had just won the 6 Nations, denying them a second consecutive Grand Slam.

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