Rugby Winter Tours 2012: Preview and Predictions
Ahhh, the incoming winter tours, historically a time where the Southern Hemisphere reminds the North just how far off the pace their game really is. A time for joy and merriment as England, Wales and Ireland talk up their chances of upsets that never materialise. Good times indeed.
Except this year, it appears that the expected results are not quite as guaranteed. Australia have been hit hard by injuries and are starting their fourth choice flyhalf, the All Blacks and Springboks have new coaches and new faces in their sides and all three countries are coming off an extended Super Rugby campaign. Will this even up the odds?
Australia, after making the terrible decision to play 3 days after half their squad played in Super Rugby, lost to Scotland at home for the first time in 30 years. The weather played it’s part, as the cold, wet and windy conditions made kicking and catching a bit tricksy, although it suited the Scots as they hung in there and secured the victory with a penalty on the hooter. They then showed their joy with the traditional Scottish custom of smashing of heads in the air.
Let’s have a closer look at the two big games on Saturday morning.
Winter Tours 9 June 2012
New Zealand vs Ireland
New All Black coach, Steve Hansen recently held a closed practice in order to prepare for his first game in charge. Sneakyyyyy but in reality don’t expect anything new from the ABs just yet. He has chosen a similar squad to the World Cup barring injuries and retirements although only has seven peeps from the final included in his team this week. Look out for newbies, Aaron Smith at scrumhalf, Julien Savea on the wing and Brodie Retallick making their debuts with Dan Carter back at flyhalf and Richie captain charming McCaw back at the helm.
Ireland are coming off a fairly sub standard 6 Nations and recently lost to the Barbarians. They have never beaten the All Blacks, everrr and although they welcome back Brian O’Driscoll are without powerful lock, Paul O’Connell. Look out for fullback, Rob Kearney who has been in sublime form recently and less Irish sounding newbie wing, Simon Zebo.
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nigel Owens
Kick-Off: Sat, 9:35am
All Black vs Ireland Prediction: All Blacks by 7-15
Australia vs Wales
Robbie Deans is once again under a bit of pressure as his team got off to the worst possible start to their season and has made eight changes to the side that lost on Tuesday. Most of the changes are in the forwards as he welcomes back the Waratahs front row and experienced Nathan Sharpe, who returns at lock. Adam Ashley-Cooper slots in at fullback and Pat McCabe and Rob Horne make up the midfield. He has resisted the urge to bring back Quade burglar Cooper and has stuck with Berrick Barnes at flyhalf which may well give the Welsh reason to smile and probably sing, in tune and at a perfect pitch.
Wales are the current 6 Nations champs but are without the powerful Jamie Roberts at centre. They have come close to beating Australia in recent times though and will look to dominate in the scrums using the powerful Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones. Look out for captain Sam Warburton as he comes up against David PoCOCK in the battle of the captains at ruck time.
I reckon Wales have a very good chance of upsetting the Wallabies but I expect them to be much better than they were recently. Berrick Barnes needs to improve dramatically but if he struggles, Wales could well win this.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Craig Joubert
Wallabies vs Wales: Wallabies to sneak it
I have a fleeting interest in the other games this week but not nearly enough to write about it here. Don’t forget to make your SuperBru picks, especially the random games, like Waratahs vs Scotland on Sunday.