As the countdown continues towards the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Saturday 8th of November is a key day in the International Rugby Union calendar. All 12 of the leading nations will be competing in various fixtures, as preparations gather apace towards the battle for the William Webb Ellis Cup beginning next September.
Here we will discuss the matches involving the Home Nations, to whet the appetite for a feast of high-class Rugby action.
We will begin with the huge clash between England and New Zealand as third take on first in the IRB World Rankings at Twickenham. Many England fans still remember fondly back to 2012, when Stuart Lancaster’s side gave the All Blacks their biggest ever defeat against the Red Rose in a 38-21 win. Since then, New Zealand has won the last four meetings, including a 3-0 whitewash in England’s tour of New Zealand back in June. Despite the series defeat, England could take heart from the experience as they ran their illustrious opponents very close, especially in the first two ties – including having leads at times in both of those matches.
A return to more familiar territory could bring out the best in an emerging England side, who only have to look towards the recent win for South Africa against the All Blacks as a blueprint. Any win against Steve Hansen’s men will have to be seriously earned though as New Zealand will surely be a very tough nut to crack after emerging victorious overall in the recent Rugby Championship.
Tough to call
Kicking off at the same time will be Wales, who face Australia at the Millennium Stadium. Warren Gatland’s side have become difficult to predict in recent times and if you go back to February, Ireland took apart the Welsh in a 26-3 Six Nations mauling in Dublin. Three weeks later, Wales dealt the French a similar 27-6 hammering, back in Cardiff.
A high level of consistency in their play for the Welsh is a must against an Australian team who have their own deficiencies, but will still pose a major threat to the home side. This contest does look to be incredibly tough to call with both teams capable of producing sublime periods of rugby, yet having bouts of inconsistency. A closely fought 80 minutes may well await here.
Yet another intriguing encounter will take place at the Aviva Stadium as hosts Ireland take on South Africa. There have been just the two meetings between these powerful nations in the last four years, with the Springboks coming out on top on both occasions. A 23-21 win back in 2010 was followed up by another narrow 16-12 victory, two years later.
South Africa have the look of a real force of the world game in their recent performances, as a narrow win over the All Blacks will testify. Ireland however are the current holders of the Six Nations crown and have had just the two outings since lifting the trophy back in March, with two wins over in Argentina. A concern for the Irish could be that facing a battle-hardened Springbok outfit, who have had much more recent international game time against their Southern Hemisphere counterparts, could be the deciding factor in this match.
Break the trend
Scotland will look to banish their 55-6 defeat to South Africa back in June, as they tackle Argentina at Murrayfield. Vern Cotter’s men suffered at the hands of the Springboks back in June, but with such a depleted squad due to club commitments, the result was somewhat inevitable. Argentina are not as formidable opposition though as the Scots grounded out a 21-19 win in Córdoba just eight days previously to the South Africa defeat.
The Pumas have an excellent record on Scottish soil however, with four wins from five trips, including a narrow 9-6 win back in 2009 as their most recent meeting at Murrayfield. Scotland will need to break the trend if they are to send their supporter’s home happy.