Autumn Internationals: Pithy Previews 2

19 11 2010

Ireland vs New Zealand

The weekends big game (with due respect to Scotland South Africa) sees a stuttering Irish side take on what is surely one of the most well oiled rugby machines around, if not ever. The All Blacks arrive in Dublin with history behind them, never having lost to the men in green, and a sense that it would be a major shock should Ireland summon the wherewithal to beat them. Not, you understand, that Ireland are not capable of it – they have some exceptional players – yet they appear rusty and unsure of themselves. Factor in the winning ‘hoodoo’ the AB’s have on them and we sadly cannot see anything but a comfortable All Black victory.

For Ireland the returning Kearney will be key. One of the best 15’s around his running and positional play will be important. Sexton returns at fly half in a surprising move after his woes against South Africa – yet one feels that if Ireland are to win, they will need a man with a little more in the way of vision and pace than Ronan O’Gara.

Upfront Ireland can expect to go backwards in the scrum but compete at the breakdown – the trio of Ferris, Wallace and Heaslip remain amongst the best in the world. Their battle against Kaino, McCaw and Read will as ever be crucial.

For the All Blacks, Sonny Bill Williams drops to the bench after his virtuoso performance against the Scots last week leaving Nonu to rejoin Smith in the centres. Otherwise they are much as you would expect – until Stephen Donald comes on, quality all the way through…

Prediction: Ireland 14-36 New Zealand

Look out for: Nonu to have a storming match to remind Henry exactly what he’s capable of and to hold off the threat of Williams for his starting jersey. Ireland to have a good deal of possession but to repeatedly run into what is an impenetrable black wall time and time again. Ireland to struggle at scrum and line out time.

Scotland vs South Africa

Scotland are a chastened and disappointed side after their limp performance against the AB’s last week. Blown away by a far superior team; it will have shown just how far they have to go to compete with the best sides in the world – something one feels that will have brought their whisperings of possible victories over Tri Nations sides back down to earth with a serious bump.

Against a South African side who, remarkably, are still going for the Grand Slam, they will have as good a chance as they will this Autumn for a major scalp. The Boks have come off two close wins – games which we feel they should really have lost had Ireland and Wales shown less rustiness and finishing ability respectively – and will probably have one eye on England next weekend. Scotland can take advantage of this lack of attention and push them all the way. After all – as shown against Australia last year – you never quite know what could happen if the game has one score in it at the end.

Prediction: Scotland 9 – 20 South Africa

Look out for: Scotland to play with more fire this week and provide a sterner test for the Springboks than they would feel comfortable with. De Villiers 55 minute mark substitutions to have a marked impact on the game as he takes off the Bok’s best players. The Boks to ultimately have too much quality. Scotland not to score a try.

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