Italy v Australia
The Australians will not be looking forward to this and certainly could have had an easier match. The weakness in the front row again rose its ugly head last week against England and will surely make another appearance in Turin against Rizzo, Giazzon and Castrogiovanni. The Australians will count themselves unlucky last weekend with quite a lot going against them but you do make your own luck and but for one missed tackle by Twelvetrees they didn’t look to have a great deal in the ideas box.
They still look to have a decent team on paper but just can’t seem to put it together on the field. The big win in Argentina was their highlight of the 4 nations, but took two thumpings from South Africa and Ewan McKenzie must be starting to feel the same sort of heat Deans felt.
Italy come in to the Autumn internationals in buoyant mood after finishing a creditable 3rd last year in the 6 nations beating both France and Ireland at home while running England close at Twickenham, even Wales’ win in Italy was less than convincing despite the scoreline. Italy seem able to give an extra 20-30% when at home and more so if they are close after 40 mins then it becomes more difficult as a lot of sides know. They have some talented individuals and some fine young players coming through and Italian rugby is definitely on the rise again.
The last 4 matches between the pair in Italy have seen 4 Australian wins, although that gap is now shortening. Just one 18pt victory is amongst a 10, 7 and 3 pt victories. The 3pt game was in last years internationals and with Italy on the rise and Australia looking poor the handicap of +10.5 for Italy looks a great one. Italy will go into this without a game under their belts but the chance to win over one of the big 3 Southern Hemisphere sides should be motivation enough for them.
If the pack dominate then that +10.5 is going to look silly and I believe they could even win this at around 4/1.
England v Argentina
England will have a chance to build on last weeks fortuitous victory with a Puma side visiting that didn’t win a single game in the Rugby Championship. this came after the heavy losses to an England XV that visited over the summer. Only minor changes have been made this week with the in form Foden coming in on the wing to replace the injured Yarde and Marler in for Vunipola. A late injury has also cost Ben Youngs his place on the bench to Danny Care.
England last week had the fortune of two decisions going their way in the lead up to both tries and were no where near their fluent best, however they hung on well against an Australian side that is really quite poor at this time. The pack looked solid enough but not even Dickson could get the backs moving. Farrell is looking less and less like the 10 England want him to be while the partnership of Twelvetrees and Tomkins looked shaky at best. The little ray of sunshine was Mike Brown, who finally got the 15 jersey and played like he wanted to keep hold of it for some time.
The Puma’s will be a different test with the pack likely to get the thorough examination this week instead of being able to push school kids around, while with no Pichot or Contepomi now the backs should get more time and space to play their game. A big loss to the Puma’s is Fernandez-Lobbe who is injured but they still have plenty of old heads in the side to cause trouble, as well as plenty with Premiership experience.
We can write off the Puma’s tour in the summer as the squad was split in 2 due to the amount of fixtures they would have but it is hard to get away from that they were walloped at home by the poor Australians. They have lost a lot of experience and are well and truly in a rebuilding phase so I cannot see the turnaround of 2006 when winning at Twickenham but they could pose an underperforming England problems. England have been together now a few weeks and the first match nerves are out of the way and I would hope for a much better performance this week.
If England hold parity up front then they should win by 15-20.