Points to prove
Alex wonders if Wales can get back on track against Samoa
Last Updated: 19/11/12 12:50pm
It is round two of the autumn internationals, and Alex Payne says that there are points to prove for the home nations.
England's big win over Fiji and Australia's thumping by France has seen the Wallabies handicap gently climbing all week, but my gut feeling is heading in the other direction.
While England are settled, have Chris Ashton back and will fancy scrum time I think their inexperience becomes more of a factor this weekend. If things go wrong, have England got the ability to find a way out?
Australia are hugely motivated and rarely have two bad games in a row. They have one of their most dangerous weapons back in Digby Ioane while Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale will swap in and out of 10 to enhance their attacking game. Remember too that they recently drew with the All Blacks and won in Argentina with a patched up outfit in the final round of the Championship. The Wallabies 8 point start feels too big to me, but I'm sticking with England - by one score at 5/1.
If you're looking for more gamble, with rain likely I think England may keep it tight early on. With half of England's pack from Leicester a good old fashioned catch and drive may well bring rewards for Thomas Waldrom at 20/1 or Tom Youngs at 33/1 as first try scorer.
Finally and for a bit of fun, in the last three games between these two we've had four double try scorers - Beale, Ioane and Ashley Cooper are all dangerous in that regard for Australia but I'm going to fan the hype and back Chris Ashton for a try double at 7/1. He's hungry, has a point to prove and loves scoring against the Wallabies.
Wales v Samoa
I had real concerns for Wales heading into the Argentina game, but wasn't expecting them to unravel quite like that! With confidence low and the world on their back this week, changing the captain and fly half can only add to the upheaval. The new men, Tipuric and Biggar, are certainly bang in form but it is a big ask to turn Wales' fortunes around.
Wales don't like playing Samoa - they've suffered a couple of World Cup humiliations in the past and only got home by four and seven points in their last two meetings. There is also real motivation for the visitors - last year they beat the Tri Nations champions Australia on their own soil and if they can do the same to the Six Nations Champions they can start to demand a constant presence at rugby's top table. They will have seen just what that has done for Argentina.
As for what to look out for, Paul Perez on the right wing is big and strong and knows his way to the try line, George Pisi has been superb for Northampton and David Lemi can conjure something for nothing.
If you're looking for Welsh saviours Toby Faletau was superb last week and will need to be again against a hugely physical Samoan back row, while the recalled Mike Phillips will have a massive point to prove at 9. Many have tipped him as the Lions 9 next summer, and a heroic performance on Friday night will add weight to that.
But I think a +11 handicap for Samoa is too big, and I'm going for the visitors to win at 7/2.
Ireland XV v Fiji
I don't think Ireland should have too many problems at Thomond Park - they've picked a pretty gnarly pack with plenty of potential in the backline, and there's always a heavyweight bench to call upon if needed. Ireland should be fitter and more motivated after the loss to South Africa, a loss which had plenty of positives when you consider the number of big names missing.
Try scorers become a bit of a lucky dip in games like these, but two things interest me - playing the overs on the Fijian points and a potential red card at 12/1. I think it could get a little fiery and Fiji have already collected 3 yellows in their two tour games so far.
Scotland v South Africa
It is two wins each in the last four between the Scots and Boks at Murrayfield, with last two decided by just four points.
The problem for Scotland is that those results often come down to Bok disinterest - they'd rather be on the beaches of Cape Town and Durban at this time of year. But having slept walked through the first half against Ireland I think they'll be a lot more switched on this week.
While Scotland were chasing shadows at times against the All Blacks, South Africa's attack is easier to track but the challenge comes through brute force. I'm going to stick with my back row try scorers for the Boks - all three are 9/2 anytime try scorers - Francois Louw has been superb recently.
Tim Visser's double against New Zealand means there's not much value around him now as a 2/1 anytime try scorer, but David Denton at 15/2 for the Scots might be worth a nibble. I always like to find players who've got a little bit more to play for and Denton was born in Zimbabwe, so this will be a special afternoon for him.
Overall though, I think the Boks might find their groove this week and come through by more than their -10 handicap.
Finally the accumulator for England, Samoa, Ireland and South Africa is available at 7/1. Three favourites and an upset? Here's hoping...