So the international window is now open and even though this is titled round 2 this is the real start of the november internationals.
There are a lot of games this weekend and some of these teams will only register in our consciousness at world cup time. So here are the current IRB World Rankings so we have some idea of the current strengths of the teams that we don’t know so well.
Position - Union - Rating Points 1 NEW ZEALAND 93.15 2 SOUTH AFRICA 90.41 3 ENGLAND 85.68 4 AUSTRALIA 84.53 5 IRELAND 83.44 6 WALES 80.70 7 FRANCE 80.01 8 SCOTLAND 77.75 9 SAMOA 76.35 10 ARGENTINA 75.97 11 JAPAN 75.63 12 FIJI 74.58 13 TONGA 72.83 14 ITALY 70.92 15 GEORGIA 70.46 16 ROMANIA 68.42 17 CANADA 67.77 18 USA 67.30 19 URUGUAY 63.58 20 RUSSIA 62.29 21 SPAIN 60.65 22 NAMIBIA 58.39
Yup, we have teams all the way down to 22nd playing this weekend, so it’s not surprising that there will be teams that we are not so familiar with.
Canada v Namibia
The first game up is exactly one of those where you probably won’t know the two teams so well. I have no idea what Namibia’s build up has been to this game. What I do know though is that, Canada are 5 rungs higher up the IRB ladder than Namibia and had a warm up game last weekend, even if they did lose. So for these reasons I’m going for Canada.
Japan v New Zealand Maori
New Zealand Maori put Japan to the sword, or should that be patu, last weekend. The Japanese could not live with the slick counterattacking Maori. I can’t see that Japan will be able to improve enough in 1 week to challenge the 17 game winning streak that the Maori are on.
New Zealand Maori win
Georgia v Tonga
Another game where I can’t do more than revert to stereotypes, so here we go. This is going to be a battle of styles with Georgia’s strong scrummaging forward play against the 7s running style of Tonga. These two teams are fairly evenly matched in the IRB table and I’m going for the lower ranked side as they are playing at home.
England v New Zealand
The All Blacks are the number one ranked team in the world and losses only happen once in a blue moon. England are one of the few sides to have beaten them over the last couple of years but do lose far more often than they win. Whilst I would love to see another famous red rose win I can’t see it happening when this is England’s first game together in a while. So it’s the All Blacks to win this one as they have been together since June.
New Zealand win
Wales v Australia
One of the previews of next year’s world cup and Wales will be desperate for a win. I think it’s 2008 when they had their last win over a southern hemisphere giant and that was Australia. With all the off field issues that Australia have had, you would think that they are ripe for the taking. However with a new coach to impress and the Wallabies used to this kind of chaos I don’t see it happening. Sure they were run close by the Baa-Baas last weekend but I still think Australia will win this. Again I think it’s going to come down to how long they have been together recently and if this was the last game in the series could be very different.
Romania v USA
Two more of the lesser well-known sides and again with similar rankings. I’m going with the home team, they have not had the distractions and razzmatazz of playing the All Blacks last weekend. Also USA will be a much changed side with their premiership players returning to their clubs as part of the deal for their release last weekend.
Italy v Samoa
Samoa who never get a full tour of tier 1 nations during this window will be keen to make a point. Italy’s record against Samoa also isn’t good with 1 win against 5 losses including a 15-0 defeat in June. You have to go back to November last year for Italy’s last win which was against Fiji. I can’t see that streak being broken this weekend and expect the Islanders to win this one.
France v Fiji
France are in a bit of a mess, the perennial club v country row with too many foreign players, too many games and no extra player release. Add to that only coming fourth in the 6 Nations last year and losing all their tour games in Australia.
On the flip side Fiji have never beaten the French in 8 attempts, but it has been 4 years since these two countries played each other. At the end of the day I’m going with a big French pack to power out a win and hope that Fiji maintain their discipline to make it a close one.
Ireland v South Africa
Ireland are the reigning 6 Nations champions and second highest european ranked team. But that’s the problem isn’t it? When we talk about the European teams we always say how they are ranking compared to each other. When we talk about the southern hemisphere teams we don’t need that qualification, they are the best teams in the world. So this is really 5th v 2nd and the 2nd ranked team in the world have been together more or less since June. Ireland do have a very good relationship between provinces and union but they really won’t have had enough time together and would have wanted this game last not first, for a decent chance.
Oh and who is going to wear 13? How do you replace GOD, sorry BOD.
South Africa win
Scotland v Argentina
Scotland rank two places higher in the rankings but this is where statistics don’t tell all the facts. Argentina are playing the top 3 southern hemisphere giants home and away every year, that’s going to put a dent into your ranking. Also Argentina are coming off the back of their first Rugby Championship (it is an awful name) victory over the Wallabies. Add into this Scotland’s 36% win record against Argentina and a new coach still figuring out his best side. Yup I’m going for another SH win.