Rugby union fans, it is that time of year again. These summer fixtures offer a unique chance to assess how strong and fit players are at the end of the gruelling domestic campaign – and Ireland, England and Wales are all in action on Saturday.
2018 Six Nations winners Ireland will take on Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Saturday’s opener before Eddie Jones’ England try to oust South Africa at Ellis Park. In the third game of the day, Wales face Argentina in what could be the most entertaining fixture of the day.
It would be foolish to read too much into this summer’s results but with the 2019 World Cup drawing closer, building momentum and confidence is crucial. Without further ado, let’s get down to Saturday’s triple header; starting with Ireland’s clash against Australia in Brisbane.
AUSTRALIA vs Ireland
Winning in Australia is never easy and the Suncorp Stadium crowd will be baying for blood on Saturday morning.
The Wallabies, currently ranked as the fourth best team in the world, have an excellent record against Ireland; although the visitors are now labelled as the ‘next best’ behind New Zealand according to the latest World Rugby standings.
Ireland were effective and efficient without being too adventurous in the Six Nations earlier this year and a similar approach looks likely here.
Joe Schmidt’s men are solid in defence, commit very few individual errors and force turnovers on a regular basis – and there will be plenty of punters fancying the 8/11 about Ireland on Saturday morning.
However, Australia will be raring to go ahead of the opening game of the series and Michael Cheika’s side represent solid value at 11/10.
Australia’s last defeat to Ireland on home soil came back in 1979; the Wallabies have won the previous 10 head-to-heads Down Under. I’m going for an Australia win at a very appealing 11/10 but it could be a nail-biting affair.
TIP: Australia to win @ 11/10
SOUTH AFRICA vs England
Eddie Jones described Ellis Park as the spiritual home of rugby earlier this week and you’d have to make him right. The place will be rocking on Saturday afternoon and England will be up against it.
The Springboks are a different beast altogether on home soil and it would be foolish to read too much into last week’s defeat to Wales. After all, Rassie Erasmus left 15 internationals at home for that one-off trip to Washington.
England suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Barbarians last month and Jones is in real need of a confidence-boosting victory. The Red Rose have struggled to inspire confidence in 2018 but this should be a different England XV here.
Players from Saracens and Exeter Chiefs have now joined up with the rest of the squad and England will be much improved for that.
The 19/20 on offer for South Africa to win by more than three points is worth considering. It may be a long afternoon for England fans if the Springboks bring their A-game.
This one could get away from Jones’ side if South Africa take an early lead. A relatively low-scoring affair looks likely...
TIP: South Africa to win by at least four points @ 19/20
Argentina vs WALES
Argentina will be full of confidence ahead of this two-match Test series and their Jaguares contingent, currently on a six-game winning run in Super Rugby, can inspire the Pumas to a comfortable victory.
As with most southern hemisphere nations, Argentina’s game revolves around confidence and Wales won’t want to give the Pumas any encouragement in this fixture.
Wales were without most of their British & Irish Lions for last week’s trip across the Atlantic Ocean but Gatland’s side still managed to beat South Africa for the third match in a row.
It was not a classic encounter by any means but Wales now have a platform to build on. That win moved the tourists up to fifth in the world rankings and punters will be expecting more of the same from Gatland’s men here.
Argentina will be looking to start quickly but you’d fancy Wales to finish stronger and 7/5 could be a huge price if Gatland’s side can ride out the initial storm.
There could be a few happy touring Cymru fans if the visitors find their best form.
TIP: Wales to win @ 7/5
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*