There is only two matches in this weekends Autumn Internationals or Rugby World Cup build up! First up, England is taking on Ireland in a very intriguing battle! Following that Scotland will be out for revenge back at home against France. Both matches will be taking place on Saturday, the 24th of August.
England vs Ireland @ Twickenham.
England’s been pushing themselves through the best tests they can find in recent weeks. What’s better than taking on the World Number One! A big 33-19 win was followed up with a 13-9 loss the week after against Wales in two contrasting matches. The home ground advantage proving a pivotal factor. This weekend’s starting side look all guns blazing for the English, the backline has all the big names lining up again! Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi all return to the starting side in the backs. For the forwards, much the same. Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill push into starting positions in the pack. Also look out for Mako Vunipola who returns via the bench for their penultimate hitout, only Italy remain before the Rugby World Cup.
This close to the Rugby World Cup kicking off, there has been a lot of talk about which sides are stepping up and peaking at the right times. Wales are number one, England beat them, the Springboks and Wallabies were both strong against the All Blacks, who struck back. A side we have hardly mentioned is Ireland! Ireland ended the Six Nations down in a disappointing third and were put away by both sides finishing above them by a decent margin! Ireland kicked off their build up with a solid 29-10 win over Italy last weekend, but the injury to Joey Carbery tarnished what would have been a solid run. This week they named 24 year old Ross Byrne for his first start in the number 10 shirt. The side will have 1 positional and 12 personnel changes from the side that toppled Italy last weekend. Jean Kleyn and Garry Ringrose keep their spot and Jordan Larmour moves from fullback to the right wing.
It’s going to be a tough battle for Ireland, as you can bet your last coin that England will be targeting Byrne at fly-half. Byrne will be up against a very tested and experienced halves and midfield combination from England and will need all the support from the likes of Conor Murray and Bundee Aki next to him. The forwards battle is where Ireland may get a glimmer of hope, but England will not be a pushover at the set piece either. It’s hard to see the Irish struggles ending this weekend against what is a very powerful English side. I will be picking an England win by 11 points.
Scotland vs France @ Murrayfield
Scotland will be please to get back to their own beds to drown their sorrows after a painful 32-3 defeat to France last weekend. There was very little positives to take from the loss in Nice and as a result only one name remains in the starting 15 from that night. Stuart Hogg, the chosen one, retains his sport at fullback for the Scots! Uncapped and Rugby World Cup selected Number 8 Blade Thompson gets his chance on the international stage, two season after leaving New Zealand Rugby and will start at the back of the pack. Of course the main watching point will be the big names returning in the halves, Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell reunite once more. It’s a mobile back row for Scotland which should aid them considerably more than last week and of course….. they are at home, the ultimate 16th man for a Scottish team!
There’s little France like more than a Rugby World Cup year! Even though it’s a little strange they are showing it this early. The job done at home, however, is not as simple on the road! The real test will be if they can back it up at Murrayfield. Contrasting their opponents, France have only made five changes to their side. In the pack, Guilhem Guirado comes in at hooker, Felix Lambey replaces the suspended Paul Gabrillagues in the second row and Arthur Iturria moves into the back row on the blindside. For the backline Sofiane Guitoune replaces Wesley Fofana and Maxime Medrad departs the fullbacks shirt for Thomas Ramos. Keep your eyes peeled on how these two French wingers go, Alivereti Raka and Damian Penaud have been making waves this season and could be ones to watch at the Rugby World Cup this year.
It is hard to look past how comprehensive the French side was last weekend, but I feel Scotland will be considerable better than a week ago. Wholesale improvements and of course, the home ground fortress of Murrayfield. Will it be enough to turn around that 29 point deficit? I think it will. Game control will play a big part with the halves changes and they will not want to be embarrassed at home! Let’s take a risk, give me Scotland by 2.
That wraps up our two matches over the weekend. Was a little bit more comprehensive cover than usual since its only two matches but each weekend I will bring my thoughts on the games leading into the Rugby World Cup. Leave your thoughts, as always, in the comments below, thanks for stopping by!