The Autumn International programme reaches a conclusion this weekend, with England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all hoping to sign off from 2021 with victories.
This will also mark the final opportunity for the Home Nations to flex their muscles ahead of the upcoming Six Nations, while preparations will also continue for the 2023 World Cup in France, which gets under way in less than two years’ time.
England Seeking World Cup Revenge
After a disastrous Six Nations campaign, England have gone some way to repairing the damage over the autumn after following up a resounding victory over Tonga with a 32-15 triumph against Australia last weekend.
Eddie Jones’ side will now be hoping to make it three wins from three on Saturday, while also gaining revenge over a South Africa team who beat them 32-12 in the 2019 World Cup Final – which is also the last time the two teams went head-to-head.
South Africa have also won both their matches over the autumn, seeing off a depleted Wales, before notching 22 second-half points to get the better of Scotland 30-15 at Murrayfield.
The Springboks have also lost just three of their last 18 meetings with England and they are priced at 4/5 to claim the victory on Saturday, with their cause being helped as the hosts will be without the likes of captain Owen Farrell and hooker Jamie George, who have both been ruled out through injury.
Wallabies to Edge Past Depleted Wales
It has been a difficult autumn for Wales, as injuries have depleted the options available to coach Wayne Pivac and have contributed to defeats against New Zealand and South Africa, as well as their narrow victory over a Fiji side who played the majority of last weekend’s contest with a player short.
Australia have also endured a tough few weeks, losing to both Scotland and England, but their forward line has looked strong and they will expect to overpower an understrength Wales when they visit the Principality Stadium.
Wales will at least be able to call upon the fit again Josh Adams, Tomas Francis and Aaron Wainwright, while Saturday’s contest should prove a tight affair, as only 14 of the previous 43 meetings between the two sides have been won by a total of more than 10 points.
The last two encounters have seen Wales emerge victorious, but prior to that Australia had triumphed 13 times in a row, with 11 of those victories coming by between 1-10 points, which could make a Wallabies win by a 1-12 margin on Saturday a tempting option at 11/5.
Scotland Seek Final Flourish
It has been an impressive 2021 for a Scotland team that followed up away victories in the Six Nations against England and France with a 15-13 success over Australia in their opening match of the autumn.
However, Gregor Townsend’s side will have a bitter taste in the mouth following their second-half collapse against South Africa last weekend, although Saturday’s opponents Japan could provide the ideal opposition to right those wrongs.
Japan were thrashed 60-5 when they took on Ireland at the start of the month and Scotland will be eyeing a similarly emphatic victory at Murrayfield.
A Scotland win by 36 points or more can be back at 5/1.
Ireland to Build on All Blacks Success
Ireland are currently on a seven-match winning run that includes last weekend’s 29-20 victory over New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium.
Andy Farrell’s side have also been catching the eye with their expansive brand of rugby, which should not be quelled too much when they host Argentina on Sunday, despite the absence of Johnny Sexton and Jamison Gibson-Park, who both picked up injuries against the All Blacks.
The absence of that duo does leave Farrell with a selection dilemma for his half-back combination, but that should not stop Ireland from seeing off an Argentina team that have lost to France and just about got the better of Italy over recent weeks.
Ireland have also triumphed in seven of their last eight meetings with the Pumas, the last four of which have been won by between 1-12 points, and Farrell’s men can be backed at 37/20 to emerge victorious by that margin again on Sunday.
*All odds correct at time of writing