After the conclusion of the Rugby Championship, this weekend sees Bledisloe 2 played in New Zealand and a host of Rugby World Cup warm-up games across both Hemispheres. Bet Central brings you the key battles in this weekend’s international rugby action.
New Zealand v Australia: Fullback Ascendancy
One selection is merely a test of one player’s ability at fullback on the international stage, the other however is a look at whether the man can do the job because the incumbent has not done the 15 jersey justice.
Andrew Kellaway is looking to nail down the Wallabies fullback spot after Tom Wright’s indifferent form to begin the international season. Andrew Kellaway is arguably the more complete footballer boasting better technical ability than Wright’s explosive pace and power. It remains to be seen whether Kellaway will usurp Wright in the long run.
Will Jordan on the one hand is a certainty on the wing, but this move is most probably to see how he goes at fullback should they need him to play there at the World Cup. Irrespective of the coaches’ objectives on this one, it should be a good duel between the 2 fullbacks.
Scotland v France: 2nd Row Clash
Richie Gray was lost in the international wilderness for a while, but at the age of 33 has found himself back on the Test radar with Scotland. He has been in great form and should secure a spot for the World Cup.
Up against him, this week will be the guy who took the international stage by storm last year when he provided the French 2nd with great athleticism and ball skill. Cameron Woki was also a menace in the lineout. This will be Woki’s 1st run on the Test stage this year after missing out on the 6 Nations with injury. He clashes against an old dog, but the younger more athletic lock could edge this one and shape the game for France.
Wales v England: 8thmen On Collision Course
Both Aaron Wainwright and Alex Dombrandt are players who have shown tons of promise in the past, but never quite shown the consistency required at Test level, both are in the running for the World Cup squads and need to show their quality consistently
This will be an intriguing clash as both players still have so much to prove at Test level, if they can get their best performances in, it will considerably boost their chances of winning.
Dombrandt plays behind a great pack compared to Wainwright, so he should have the ascendancy, but the Welshman could outdo Dombrandt.
Ireland v Italy: Pivotal Control
This is arguably the tastiest clash of the weekend between 2 of the most exciting flyhalves in Europe with URC champion Jack Crowley taking on Paolo Garbisi in the clash between Italy and Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Crowley is the older of the 2 by a couple of months but has far less Test experience compared to Garbisi who made his Test debut at the age of 20. If you ever want to understand how good Garbisi is, take a moment to consider the consigned World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard to the bench at Montpellier.
Crowley, however, has had a dream season for Munster and will be looking to build on that and secure his spot in the World Cup squad. A good performance in Dublin could go a long way in doing that.
Argentina v South Africa: Captains Battle
The last of the big clashes this weekend sees a repeat of last week’s nail-biter in Johannesburg, this time in Buenos Aires in Argentina. The Boks have rotated heavily and will have a brand new captain this week in Bongi Mbonambi.
He clashes against an experienced captain in Julian Montoya and the battle of the captains will be out in full force in a titanic clash where the front rows will have a big say.
There is a lot about Montoya that has him in the realm of the best hookers in the world but don’t underestimate the willpower of new skipper Mbonambi.