So to week two of the autumn internationals, and here come the cavalry!
Wales v South Africa
The big game this weekend is in Cardiff where the Six Nations champions Wales take on South Africa, runners up in the Rugby Championship. A lot is expected of Warren Gatland's side after the destruction of England in the Six Nations finale and the Welsh contribution to the successful Lions tour, but I'm going to sound a note of caution.
Wales have fallen to 13 losses in 13 years to the Boks and have only beaten them once in their history, back in 1999. To add to that, under Warren Gatland Wales have lost 21 of the 22 games against the SANZAR big three, and although many of the players achieved success down under this summer, traditionally we have seen Lions hangovers last long into a new season.
The men in red also have a habit for being very slow starters, having lost their last three opening autumn internationals, and three of the last four opening Six Nations games. It is also worth considering the absence of Jamie Roberts who plays such a big role in the effectiveness of Gatland's game plan, as proved in that Lions third test. His replacement Scott Williams has produced some big performances in the Heineken Cup this season, but Roberts injury is certainly a blow.
When you look at the Wales team on paper there is a huge amount of physicality within it - the likes of North and Davies in the backs, and Toby Faletau and Alun Wyn Jones in the forwards, but South Africa remain the pace setters when it comes to power. Their head coach Heyneke Meyer has embraced the cold and the rain for the next month, stating that it provides the perfect preparation for the World Cup in 2015, and he has picked the biggest tractors to play those conditions. If South Africa get the edge in terms of physicality on Saturday, then expect fly half Morne Steyn to kick the corners and the squeeze to follow.
So I'm going for South Africa to win by a handful, 6-10 on the margin (9/2), and in terms of try scorers - Willem Alberts (3/1) is a good autumn tourist with four tries in six November tests, while Bismark du Plessis (5/1) likes to tuck himself into the back of driving line outs near the try line. In the backs, Habana is always dangerous at 7/4 so keep an eye on Jaque Fourie (11/4) who returns to Boks colours for the first time in two years - how often do returning players grab the headlines?
For Wales, well Mike Phillips (4/1 a/t) certainly has a point to prove - currently playing without a club but having been fully supported by Wales. George North is always dangerous (2/1 a/t) while Jonathan Davies, arguably the form player of the Lions tour this summer, has continued his good form with the Scarlets in the Heineken. Without Roberts he'll be required to bring more authority to the game, and he's 5/2 to bring a try too.
England v Argentina
2.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD, Sky Sports 3D
A win is a win for England although it wasn't the greatest performance against Australia. However, the most impressive aspect was the way a young side found a way to the victory despite not playing their best - this was the kind of game that twelve months ago England were losing. On Saturday the challenge is to prove they are more than a just a 'hard team to play against' but are now becoming a good side.
Making that transition has been the stumbling block for Argentina, who have lost all eight tier one tests this year. There have been resulting off field problems, the coaching duo of Santiago Phelan and Sir Graham Henry have moved on, while there's no Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, their inspirational leader. Stuart Barnes said on this week's Rugby Club that no Lobbe's absence knocks 25% of the Pumas, he's that significant.
So England have a chance to build on their foundations, and I think they should by 16-20 points (5/1). I'm going to tip men with points to prove this weekend as well - Ashton and Foden both to score is at 13/2, while Billy Twelvetrees to make amends for last week with a try is worth covering at 100/30.
France v New Zealand
8pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD
It's the side who can't win against the team that don't lose. The Six Nations Wooden Spoonists against the World Cup and Rugby Championship Champions. A side decimated by injuries and with a head coach with an erratic selection policy against a settled and consistent group with one little injury niggle. Everything is stacked in the All Blacks favour, so history would tell you to lump on France. However, not this time. Les Blues are in a whole world of trouble right now, and the previous pitfalls are surely too well signposted for New Zealand to stumble into.
All Blacks by more than 13 (21/20) on the alternative margin but such is the potency of their attack that the rewards are fairly slim - if you're looking for value how about a Ben Smith double at 7/1 or the hat trick at 40/1. He's already scored 11 this year.
Scotland v Japan
There is a little bit of a buzz about rugby north of the border at the moment with Glasgow going well in the Rabo and Heineken. Throw in a few returning players from the Premiership and Top 14 to the squad, and are we on the verge of yet another new dawn for Scottish rugby?
They should certainly put away Japan without too much trouble, who have just had 50 points put on them by the New Zealand second string at home. Although Japan did beat a severely under strength Wales team this summer, I think Scotland should win by around 31-35 points (9/1).
In terms of try scorers - Matt Scott is making a lot of headlines at the moment, his power game may be too much for the Japanese midfield to hold. Sean Maitland brings a sharp attacking threat from full back while David Denton offers real athleticism at 8.
Ireland v Samoa
It is a new era for Ireland, but will it start brightly or bluntly?
It is no surprise that there is a Leinster core to Joe Schmidt's first selection as the New Zealander seeks to replicate his domestic success onto the international stage. His starting fifteen also has six of this summer's Lions squad in it, but I'm sniffing an upset here. With no Jonny Sexton or Keith Earls, and Sean O'Brien, Paul O'Connell Cian Healey on the bench, Samoa will fancy their chances. The South Sea Islanders are an increasingly difficult opponent to play against; last autumn they beat Wales in Cardiff and narrowly lost to France in Paris. This year they have also beaten Scotland and Italy convincingly and I fancy them to sneak it on Saturday (11/4 for the win). Although there is power across the board, keep an eye on their star man Kahn Fotuali'i, who has gone well for Northampton since his move this summer. For Ireland, Tommy Bowe is always worth covering off.
Italy v Australia
2pm Sky Sports Xtra; Sky Sports 2 - Red Button
Finally to Rome where Australia limp in to face the Azzuri. Italy's recent defeats to the Wallabies have all been by relatively slim margins, falling short by 7, 10,18 and only 3 points last year. Given Australia's record of 3 wins in 11 this year, they look like they're there for the taking but I'm afraid I'm going with the visitors again, and comfortably so (13+ at 21/20). Like last week keep your money near Folau and Kuridrani, both of whom showed flashes against England.
So we'll load up an accumulator for you to finish and I'm going with wins for South Africa, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Samoa and Australia which comes in at 12/1.
And if you fancy a juicy try scoring trio, then if Alberts, Twelvetrees and Fotuali'i all score Sky Bet will reward you at 80/1. Something to stoke the interest levels, best of luck!