It is that time of the week where I put my head on the chopping block with some rugby predictions.
Ding ding, it’s the second round of matches for the Autumn internationals, and the big encounters of the weekend include England hosting South Africa and Scotland taking on Australia in a repeat of the highly controversial Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-final.
In other action, New Zealand face Italy, Wales looks to bounce back against Argentina and Ireland do battle with Canada back on home soil.
Without further ado, let’s get stuck into the predictions.
England v South Africa
England kick off their Autumn internationals this weekend when they host South Africa at Twickenham.
The home side, despite not beating South Africa since 2006, are overwhelming 1/6 favourites at Paddy Power while the visitors are generously priced at 4/1 to cause an upset.
I was at Wembley last weekend to see the Springboks defence unravel time-after-time against the Barbarians but with key personnel returing to the scene it should be a much tougher task to break them down this time out.
In what will be an all out war, the England back-row will be key with a big performance required from the returning Tom Wood . The Saints skipper literally looks like a different player to twelve months ago thanks to his long hair and beard but more importantly he’s been able to string together a series of excellent performances.
The other big selection call has Elliot Daly coming in for Jonathan Joseph at 13 to start for England for the first time. Jones will be hoping that the Wasps centres growing skill set and deadly accurate left boot can put the Boks under considerable pressure. His improved defence is another string to his bow and will be key to protecting the flanks due to Marland Yarde’s questionable tackling and Jonny May’s serious lack of playing time.
South Africa seem to be lacking in confidence and ideas at the moment, therefore I have to back England to continue their unbeaten run.
RUCK’s Prediction: England by 15
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jonathan Joseph
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lionel Mapoe
Scotland v Australia
In a repeat of the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Scotland face Australia at Murrayfield in what is bound to be an intense encounter.
The breakdown battle should be interesting this weekend, with both sides naming two fetchers in their back rows, and each will be looking to generate quick ball for their exciting backs. WP Nel will be a massive loss to the boys in blue.
Normally you’d think the Scots would want monsoon rains and to kick a few goals to win, but both teams will want it dry and this could be a great game to watch.
I’m a quarter Scottish so I’ll be rooting for the boys in blue, but the head says Australia will beat them again. Last year’s World Cup heartbreak will definitely add some extra spice to the game.
RUCK’s Prediction: Australia by 10
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Hardie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Rory Hughes
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Will Skelton, 21 Dean Mumm, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Quade Cooper
Wales v Argentina
The words “horrible”, “embarrassing” and “pathetic” were all used by The Sunday Times to describe Wales’ performance against Australia last weekend. Some might say they were being too kind.
Wales, under the guidance of Rob Howley while Warren Gatland takes a sabbatical to prepare for the Lions tour of New Zealand, were torn apart by Australia and were somewhat flattered by the 32-8 scoreline, with the Wallabies butchering further try-scoring opportunities.
And this weekend gets no easier with Argentina returning to Cardiff for the first time since outclassing Ireland in the quarter-final of the World Cup one year ago.
Wales welcome back the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton to their run-on team but it remains to be seen whether Wales aging XV will be able to deal with the Pumas expansive style of play.
Argentina are a formidable side these days, mixing it with the Southern Hemisphere’s best and although i think the men in red will be considerably more competitive this weekend, the Pumas will edge it.
RUCK’s Prediction: Argentina by 5
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James King, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Jamie Roberts
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Santiago Cordero
Ireland v Canada
The heroes that unexpectedly beat New Zealand in Chicago last weekend have been given the weekend off as they are now half-men, half-beer.
Joe Schmidt makes 15 changes, naming a lineup of exciting prospects that are all looking to break through to the first-choice XV.
I’m excited to see the likes of Tiernan O’Halloran, Garry Ringrose and Ultan Dillane in action for Ireland.
Despite the changes, the men in green should have enough to beat Canada fairly convincingly.
RUCK’s Prediction: Ireland by 20
Italy v New Zealand
You have to feel sorry for Italy. New Zealand will be hurting after their unexpected loss to Ireland and will be looking to make a real statement this weekend.
Conor O’Shea won’t be wanting anything more than a spirited display in his first game in charge of the Azzurri as clearly the All Blacks are going to win. It’s only a matter of how big the margin is.
RUCK’s Prediction: New Zealand by 50
France v Samoa
You never know what you’re going to get from Les Bleus. Guy Noves has had some more time with his players to prepare for these Internationals. They’ll win this in Toulouse undoubtedly but by how many could be a good way to gauge where they’re at right now heading into the 2017 Six Nations.