BY NICK PEARCE
The Autumn Rugby Internationals this year look tasty. For those of you who don’t know who’s playing who, here’s the schedule for you (I’ve marked England in blue – if you’re a heathen from another country then sorry, you’ll have to search through the list along with the Saffers and Aussies):
Saturday 5th November 2016
Wales v Australia at Principality Stadium, Cardiff 2:30pm
Barbarians v South Africa at Wembley Stadium, London 3:30pm
Ireland v New Zealand at Soldier Field, Chicago 8:00pm
Friday 11th November 2016
Barbarians v Fiji at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast 7:30pm
Saturday 12th November 2016
Italy v New Zealand at Stadio Olimpico, Rome 2:00pm (GMT)
England v South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, London 2:30pm
Scotland v Australia at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh 2:30pm
France v Samoa at Stadium Municipal, Toulouse 4:45pm (GMT)
Wales v Argentina at Principality Stadium, Cardiff 5:30pm
Ireland v Canada at Aviva Stadium, Dublin 7:15pm
Saturday 19th November 2016
Italy v South Africa at Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence 2:00pm (GMT)
England v Fiji at Twickenham Stadium, London 2:30pm
Wales v Japan at Principality Stadium, Cardiff 2:30pm
Scotland v Argentina at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh 5:00pm
Ireland v New Zealand at Aviva Stadium, Dublin 5:30pm
France v Australia at Stade de France, Paris 8:00pm (GMT)
Saturday 26th November 2016
Italy v Tonga at Stadio Euganeo, Padova 2:00pm (GMT)
England v Argentina at Twickenham Stadium, London 2:30pm
Scotland v Georgia at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock 2:30pm
Ireland v Australia at Aviva Stadium, Dublin 5:30pm
Wales v South Africa at Principality Stadium, Cardiff 5:30pm
France v New Zealand at Stade de France, Paris 8:00pm (GMT)
Saturday 3rd December 2016
England v Australia at Twickenham Stadium, London 2:30pm
The stand-out matches have to be (in order of date) Wales V Australia, Ireland V New Zealand (a double header of pain for the Irish), England V South Africa, France V Australia, England V Argentina, Ireland V Australia, Wales V South Africa, France V New Zealand and England V Australia.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say that England will win every game. I know they have injury problems going into the Autumn series but South Africa are not what they used to be and the Aussies will be fired up in the final test against England but I cannot see England giving them the space they gave them in the World Cup a year ago. The tough match for England, in my opinion, will be the Argies. Argentina play a style of rugby the English are not used to and I can see them getting close – in a dull 10-9 encounter in a rainy Twickenham.
I cannot see the Kiwis getting beaten by the Irish who are a shadow of what they used to be a couple of years ago. The Aussies and the Saffers will be unbeaten also outside of the England games.
Wales-South Africa will be a cracker as usual. No doubt Wales will be up ten points at half time and will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Expect the Scots to get close against Argentina but get hammered by the Aussies. They’ll beat Georgia.
This should be an interesting Autumn Series dampened by the elephant in the room – no heavyweight England V New Zealand clash.
New Zealand are at their peak with hints they may soon falter. It is illogical that they can stay at the top of their game for three world cups in a row.
England’s time will come to mash the Kiwis.
Just – happily – not yet.