Once again folks its that time of year that we get to see the home nations take on the rest of the world. What shall follow in this week’s edition of our Autumn International previews is a look at how Wales and Ireland come into their series of matches in terms of their winning prospects, their surprise packages and predictions on their first games. Only time will tell as to how each of the home nations will fare across these coming weeks, but what can be said is that these set of Autumn Internationals seem to be the most exciting yet.
Prospects – Wales always struggle in the November internationals and history shows that. When Robert Holey took over after Warran Gatland took the role as Lions Head Coach in 2012, Wales went on a 8 game losing streak. So this game is more important for Wales than people might think. Hopefully in this campaign we’ll finally see Wales attacking with more enterprising rugby, playing what is in front of them and giving the ball to players such as George North and Leigh Halfpenny.
Surprise Package – Sam Davies. Davies (left) has been in superb form for the Ospreys for about 18 months and is worthy of his call in the squad. The partnership he has with his Ospreys and Wales colleague, Dan Biggar, has allowed Davies to come on leaps and bounds; in terms of his tactical territorial kicking and not being afraid to charge with the ball into the line to keep the defence honest. For me Davies will be key in Wales’ first match against Australia.
1st Game: Australia, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, 5 November 2016 (14:30 GMT) – Like I said above, Wales do not perform well at these internationals and it lies in the fact they always start with a loss. The Wallabies have won their last 11 against the Red Dragons and Wales will be determined to set that record straight. Australia in their last test match were matching the All Blacks with 20 minutes left to play; so beware of the Wallabies, they are not in as much of a rut as everyone seems to think they are. Wales will be looking to smash Australia before cutting loose, the key is to keep possession and score as many times as possible. Morgan Roberts’ Predicted Final Score: Australia 20-19 Wales.
Prospects – Ireland come into the series after a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa. The extension of Joe Schmit’s contract as Irish coach would’ve given the team confidence and hopefully for Ireland they can capitalise on the form of players such as CJ Stander, and Jonathon Sexton. Ireland have the players and are capable, but it is winning their games that’ll really show their success this November.
Surprise Package – Garry Ringrose. Ringrose (right) has been around the blocks of Leinster for a little bit now and for me, deserves the accreditation as to be the replacement to Brian O’Driscoll in the centre for Ireland. His ball handling as well as his power and pace make him a very potent attacking threat and I look forward to seeing him play.
1st Game: New Zealand, Soldier Field Stadium, Chicago, USA, 5 November 2016 (20:00 GMT) – 3 years ago when these sides played, it was called one of the best games of all time. Now the teams face each other on neutral ground in Chicago; however with the form that the All Blacks have been in, it’ll not be easy for Ireland. With injuries to Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, a reshuffle in the second row partnership, and with concerns from the All Black camp about the slow speed at the ruck, Ireland will look to exploit the break-down and the line-out. My prediction is for the All Blacks to win but Ireland will give them a good run for their money. Morgan Roberts’ Predicted Final Score: New Zealand 35-20 Ireland.
Stay tuned next weekend (12th November) as we’ll be previewing England’s and Scotland’s Autumn campaigns ahead of their opening fixtures against South Africa & Australia respectively.