- England’s fortunes have been radically transformed since Eddie Jones took over as coach a year ago in the wake of a dismal World Cup campaign. They completed the Grand Slam for the first time since 2003 as they won the Six Nations, before beating Australia 3-0 in the summer. South Africa were held to a 31-31 draw by the Barbarians at Wembley last weekend, having finished third in the Rugby Championship with just two victories in six games.
- Scotland came within seconds of beating Australia at last year’s World Cup, before agonisingly going down 35-34 following a controversial refereeing decision. They then performed well in the Six Nations, notably beating France for the first time in ten years, and won twice in Japan this summer. Australia came second in the Rugby Championship, behind the All Blacks, and impressively brushed Wales aside 32-8 in Cardiff last weekend.
- Wales came second in the Six Nations and fought hard on their summer tour of New Zealand, despite losing the series 3-0. However, they were very disappointing in their 24-point defeat by Australia. Argentina, World Cup semi-finalists in 2015, came bottom of the Rugby Championship but did register a narrow home win over South Africa. They warmed up for their clash with Wales by overcoming Japan 54-20.
England’s short odds reflect the confidence which must be coursing through the squad, and coach Eddie Jones has picked an exciting blend of youth and experience in his team to face South Africa. The Springboks, by contrast, have endured a tough few months, including a record loss to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship. While they will be able to welcome back key players such as captain Adriaan Strauss and wing Bryan Habana following their draw with the Barbarians, England look to be much stronger. One of the handicap markets might be a better option than simply backing England as the outright winner, and odds of 10/11 on the hosts to win with a 10-point handicap still look good value.
Australia were scintillating at times against Wales and should notch another comfortable win over Scotland. The Wallabies’ defence is so strong that a decent punt could be on which team will score the first points, where Australia can be backed at 4/6.
If there is to be an upset this weekend, it could well happen in Wales, where Argentina provide a dangerous challenge to Rob Hawley’s side. While the returns of Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones will no doubt boost the Welsh, a run of five international defeats since the final week of the Six Nations will have dented their self-belief. Argentina are battle-hardened after the Rugby Championship and ran in seven tries against Japan last weekend.
The Pumas are rated at 7/4, and if you combine these odds with an England handicap at -10 against South Africa and a win for Australia over Scotland, there is a very favourable potential return.
- Sports.net’s top tip: A Treble:
England to beat South Africa -10 handicap (10/11)
Australia to beat Scotland (2/9)
Argentina to beat Wales (7/4)
*Please note, odds may fluctuate