Autumn Internationals Rugby Union

March 21, 2017
Chris Ashton

Gavin Mairs - England v New Zealand. The last time the two sides will meet before the World Cup - and next time could be the final.

Daniel Schofield - Wales v Australia. So much at stake for both teams who are in the same World Cup group. For Wales it represents the best possible opportunity to get that SANZAR monkey off their back before the World Cup. By Saturday it will be 2, 170 days since they last claimed the scalp of the big three. With the best will in the world, I cannot see Warren Gatland’s team knocking off either South Africa or New Zealand and Australia will be viewed as vulnerable with a new coach at the helm in Michael Cheika. A Wallabies win would inflict enormous psychological damage.

Who is your player to watch?

Sir Ian McGeechan - George Ford. Because I think Stuart Lancaster has to play him in one of the big games.

Mick Cleary - Semesa Rokoduguni. The uncapped Fijian-born British Army soldier has dealt with many stressful situations in his day job. Can he bring that professional cool and nerve to the sporting arena? Big moment for him, and for England.

Austin Healey - Kyle Eastmond. Stuart Lancaster wants a ball player in the centres. He has persevered with Billy Twelvetrees who makes decisions before he needs to but Eastmond takes the ball closer to defenders, making his passes harder to defend. If he gets a good run and plays like he can the centre position could well be his for a long time. Or at least until Sam Burgess gets it...

Steve James - For England Semesa Rokoduguni. It will be fascinating to see how he adapts, especially positionally. Otherwise Handre Pollard.

Gavin Mairs - Semesa Rokoduguni, the Bath wing has been given the chance to nail down a place in the World Cup squad - but can he take it?

Daniel Schofield - South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer admitted he took a big punt in fast-tracking Handre Pollard, a former IRB Junior Player of the Year, into the team this year but boy did it pay off after he orchestrated the All Blacks’ first defeat since November 2012 last month. The 20-year-old is certainly not cut from typical Springbok cloth – he attacks the gainline and has a wonderful range of passing – and it will be fascinating to see how he adapts to conditions in the northern hemisphere before next year’s World Cup.

How many games will England win and which ones?

Sir Ian McGeechan - Three, but I’m not sure which three!

Mick Cleary - Three. South Africa, Samoa and Australia. That would be a decent return for Stuart Lancaster’s side given their injury problems. A clean sweep would be a monumental achievement.

Austin Healey - Two. Samoa and Australia.

Steve James - I think they will win three, but I actually think they may find the South Africa match tougher than the All Blacks, especially if they manage to win on Saturday

Gavin Mairs - Three, all bar New Zealand.

Daniel Schofield - Two: Samoa & Australia. While not quite as boneheaded as the architect of the summer itinerary, whoever put together England’s autumn schedule has done Stuart Lancaster no favours at all. England are generally slow starters and are coming up against the best team in the world who have been in camp together for three months. I fear witnessing some monumental mismatches in the backline on Saturday. With South Africa next up a lot will depend on how many players are left standing given England’s current injury problems. All it would take is for a couple more fallers, which is almost a given these days, and England would really be struggling. Even if they are down to Ayoola Erinle in the centres and Duncan Bell up front they dare not lose more than half their games a year out from hosting the World Cup, and Samoa and Australia will also be affected by absentees.

How many games will the other Home Nations win - and what will they be?

Sir Ian McGeechan - I think Ireland will beat Australia.

Mick Cleary - Wales will win against Australia and Fiji but New Zealand and South Africa will get the better of them. Ireland will beat Georgia and Australia while Scotland will beat Tonga. They have a chance to get past Argentina in their first game but the Pumas are battle-hardened.

Austin Healey - Wales will beat Australia and the rest will go with rankings.

Steve James - I think Wales will beat Australia, as might Ireland. Scotland could lose to Argentina, though.

Gavin Mairs - Wales to beat Australia and Fiji, Scotland to beat Argentina and Tonga, Ireland to beat Georgia and Australia.

Daniel Schofield - Fancy Wales to win the first two against Australia and Fiji before their expectations come crashing down against South Africa and New Zealand. The Vern Cotter effect should extend to Scotland wins against Argentina and Tonga, but definitely not New Zealand. Ireland are the hardest team to call in life after BOD. Probably have too many key players missing, particularly in the pack, to get the better of the Boks who will target them in the scrum, but will bounce back by beating Georgia and Australia. I have nothing against the Wallabies in tipping them for three defeats but I think it will take Michael Cheika time to make something of the hospital pass he received from Ewen McKenzie.

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk
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