Best of the South v Best of the North, Autumn International Rugby on 2BET2

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Updated: November 9, 2012

Northern Hemisphere club rugby goes on the back burner for November, as the focus shifts to the International stage. Tomorrow the best nations from the Southern Hemisphere draw battle grounds against the best of the Northern Hemisphere, in the Autumn International rugby season. The big 3 from down South, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, plus minnows Fiji, Tonga and the powerful Argentina, take to the field looking to continue their domination over their Northern opponents.

The quicker and more dynamic game from the South, has been the benchmark at the International level for some time now, this supported by the fact that the Rugby World Cup has only been won by a Northern Hemisphere Nation on one occasion, England in 2003, while the power house Nations of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have all won it twice each. That said, there has been some positive improvements, Wales, under Warren Gatland have a very talented young side that is gaining experience all the time, while England have shown that their rebuilding process is heading in the right direction under Stuart Lancaster. France under former French legend Philippe Saint-Andre are also in a transitional period however will always be a threat with their attacking flair. Ireland are an aging team with plenty of injuries, while Scotland and Italy simply don’t have credible resources. It is going to be a tough series all round for the home Nations, and if they are to prevent the big guns from gaining a clean sweep, they will have to do more than put their bodies on the line.

ENGLAND V FIJI

England kick off their series of 3 matches against Fiji at Twickenham hoping to get a good run out ahead of their more poignant clashes against Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. Lancaster has picked his most inexperienced team since his time in charge, which includes debutant hooker Tom Youngs, who has only made seven Premiership starts in the No.2 shirt having switched from being a centre, and 11 players with 13 caps or fewer. In the backs, Ugo Monye returns on the left wing in place of the injured Ben Foden while Charlie Sharples deputises for the suspended Chris Ashton on the right wing.
There are five changes in all from the England side that drew 14-14 last time out against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in June, with flank Chris Robshaw back to captain the side after missing that match with a broken hand. The uncapped pair of Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury are in line to make their Test debuts off the bench. Flyhalf Toby Flood is the most experienced player in the England side with 50 caps. Key players for England, Tom Palmer and Dan Cole will set the tone in the set-pieces, giving the Thomas Waldrom and skipper Chris Robshaw the chance to dominate. Scrumhalf Danny Care is in great form and will pose a threat around the fringes, whilst in midfield Manu Tuilagi will be the main attraction.

WALES V ARGENTINA

Two of the most improved Nations in International rugby square off at the Millennium Stadium as Six Nations Champions Wales host Argentina. Las Pumas come into the match fresh from a promising debut in the Rugby Championship that saw them prove stubborn opponents to the might of world champions New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with the Pumas managing a draw against the Springboks. For Wales the big names in the Welsh backline  Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and George North, but the key for the hosts will be the performance of the halfback combination of Rhys Priestland at flyhalf and Tavis Knoyle scrumhalf. Sam Warburton’s leadership will also play a big role, while Alun-Wyn Jones, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins bring plenty of experience to the set pieces  another key in any game to Argentina. For Argentina, it all starts with recalled veteran Felipe Contepomi, who missed the Rugby Championship, but remains a world class player. Juan Martin Hernandez, Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Jose Imhoff provide the attacking options, but Nicolas Sanchez is the general that must guide the troops. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has been an inspiration captain all year, but will look for support from Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Eusebio Guinazu.

FRANCE V AUSTRALIA

Australia arrive in Paris looking for a 6th consecutive win over the French when they take on each other this weekend. Five of Australia’s eight wins in France have come from the last six appearances in Paris, with the 14-27 loss in 2004 the Wallabies’ sole defeat in the French capital going back to 1993. For France, coach Philippe Saint-Andre has plumped for mercurial Frederic Michalak at flyhalf and a number of young, inexperienced players, saying his team was now embarking on a “new era”. Frederic Michalak will hold the key as playmaker in the revamped backline and he will look to create space for the explosive Wesley Fofana and the experienced Vincent Clerc out wide. New captain Pascal Pape will want to lead from the front, and if the French pack get on the front foot then the powerful Louis Picamoles will impose himself on the Wallabies defence. For the Wallabies, Flyhalf Kurtley Beale will provide the creative spark, but the big effort will have to come from the forward pack and skipper Nathan Sharpe will have to take the lead for players like the dynamic Michael Hooper and the physical Wycliff Palu to follow.

IRELAND V SOUTH AFRICA

Irish passion at the Aviva Stadium always acts as an extra hurdle for visiting teams, and Saturday will be no different for visitors South Africa. Ireland are a depleted team through injury, no Rob Kearney, Rory Best, Sean O’ Brien, Brian O’ Driscoll, Stephen Ferris or Paul O’ Connell, big time experienced players for the Irish. Much will depend on Jonny Sexton at flyhalf if he wants to dictate matters, however the problem that he might have, is that its not easy to do if your forwards are being pushed back, which looks like it could be the case on Saturday. The Springboks have a very powerful tight 5 and in young Eben Etzebeth in the second row, they have an athlete that will be a constant threat in the line out, much like the recently retired Victor Matfield was. Etzebeth has already cemented his International future at just 21, and is a real superstar in the making.

SCOTLAND V NEW ZEALAND

World Champions New Zealand are now 17 matches unbeaten coming into Murryfield to face Scotland. One way traffic is all that can be said of this complete mismatch. Scotland simply don’t have the resources or the skill to cope with the marvelous All Blacks outfit. In every position they have world class talent, not to mention some of their players that are warming the bench. A solid front row of Franks, Hore and Crockett will torment the Scots in the set piece, while Whitelock and Romano will dominate possession in the lineouts. Captain McCaw, is simply one of the greatest players of all time in his position,  while Vito at no.8 has plenty of skill and pace. Has there every been a better flyhalf in the history of the game than Dan Carter? No is the answer to that, while outside him the the threat from deep comes from Dagg and anyone of the talented outside backs. Given that the conditions will be relatively dry, the Scots will be very lucky to come away with a defeat of less than 20 points.