After Wales and Ireland kicked-off the home nations’ Autumn International campaign last weekend, this week we turn our attention to England and Scotland as they now get the chance to get back to competitive action in the build up to next year’s Six Nations tournament which kicks off in February. Morgan Roberts dissects both sides’ prospects for the Autumn, surprise packages, and their opening fixtures of the month which take place this weekend.
Prospects – England come into this autumn campaign after a superb 3-0 series win over Australia. England are the form side at the moment and it is a shame they don’t face the All Blacks in this campaign, a match that would have been between the second best and the best in the world. Eddie Jones has probably set the precedent to win all four of their games, starting the first against South Africa this weekend.
Surprise Package – Kyle Sinclair. Sinclair (left) has really pressed his claim to the England shirt in Joe Marler’s absence. A strong carrier with bulldozing runs and athleticism around the park, makes Sinclair a more agile front row. It’ll be interesting to see how well he scrummages against the more experienced front row players that he’ll come up against.
1st Game: South Africa, Twickenham, London, 12th November 2016 (15:30 GMT) – England have not won against South Africa since 2006. The Springboks played a Barbarians side last week and clearly showed that they are a side in transition; their poor performance in the Rugby Championship could be used as further evidence too. England are hot favourites to win but they will need to show the aggression they gave to Australia in the first 2 tests in the summer series to come out on top in this one. Morgan Roberts’ Predicted Final Score: England 25-10 South Africa.
Prospects – the Scots come into the campaign after an OK 2-0 Series win against Japan. With coach Vern Cotter to leave for Montpellier next summer, the players will want to get the most out of him whilst they can. Scotland have 3 tests this November one less than the others but I believe that they have a good chance of winning all of them; with players such as Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland likely to be key.
Surprise Package – Mark Bennett. Bennett (right) is not a newcomer to the Scottish side but his form since being part of the Team GB Sevens Squad, that won Silver at this year’s Rio Olympics, for the Glasgow Warriors has been imperious. For me, he is making his case to go to New Zealand for the Lions tour next summer, and needs to keep this form going.
1st Game: Australia, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, 12 November 2016 (14:30 GMT) – Many people might be shocked by this but I predict a win for the Scots. Australia always struggle against the Thistles and the last time these two met (at the World Cup), the Wallabies were saved by a lucky penalty being awarded to them at the death by Craig Joubert. Australia are low on confidence and the Scots are hungry for a win. Morgan Roberts’ Predicted Final Score: Scotland 25-19 Australia.