The final round of the summer tours to the big three in the South promises to be an absolute cracker! Here, we look at the chances of Wales, England and Ireland as they look to make history and lay down a marker on the South’s dominant force.
New Zealand v Wales
You have to go way back to 1953 in the rugby archives for Wales’s last win against the mighty All Blacks. History is literally against them, but can they achieve the impossible in Dunedin? I’m staying positive. There’s been glimpses of brilliance in both of the previous Tests. Liam Williams, the standout, surging forward at every opportunity means he will be a handful in the third Test against the All Black defence. But, surely the biggest area for improvement for Wales must be their defensive strategy. A combined 60 missed tackles in the two Tests has to be addressed by Warren Gatland. Wales proved that tries can be scored against New Zealand, so I’m confident they will do so again, under the roof. Losing big names like Gethin Jenkins and George North certainly won’t help the cause, but a disciplined and switched on Wales side could certainly cause some damage. But let’s not forget, the All Blacks are renowned for getting better as they go along – even with the introduction of uncapped players. Both Liam Squire and Elliot Dixon have been outstanding in Super Rugby and will be looking to impress.
Wales will step it up, but overall the All Blacks’ game will be too strong.
Score prediction: New Zealand 28 – 25 Wales
Australia v England
England, on the other hand, have clearly been the outstanding performers on tour. With the series already signed, sealed and delivered, the whitewash is only 80 minutes away. And what’s not to stop these newly invigorated players doing the dirty on Australia in their own back yard. England really took the game to the Wallabies in Brisbane and a monumental backs against the wall display in Melbourne, means my money is certainly on England. Australia will be reeling and will undoubtedly come out fighting, but England’s forward dominance has been unstoppable. Dan Cole’s having the games of his life, Kruis and Itoje continue to impress and dominate ball carrying and at lineout time and let’s not forget the heroics of Haskell and Robshaw. Albeit with no Haskell in Sydney. But I’m very excited to see Teimana Harrison come in at 7. He’s had a great season at the Saints and hopefully he’ll carry that form into his game on Saturday. The backline will shine and no doubt tries will be scored. Israel Folau and co will have something to say about it though. What a game in prospect!
Score prediction: Australia 28 – 35 England
South Africa v Ireland
Ireland really brought their A game in the first half of the second Test against the Springboks. Going in 19-3 at half time, they were clear favourites to go on and clinch the series. However, the high altitude of Ellis Park certainly favoured the home team in the second half. South Africa were clinical and took their chances at the right times. Period. A combination of Ireland’s defence switching off and the brute force of the Springbok attack made the difference. Never write off the South Africans, irrelevant of what the score line is. South Africa have never been short of exceptional wingers and Ruan Combrinck is certainly living up to that. With his quality, he’ll pose Ireland a threat. The old hands in Irelands forward pack in Toner, Heaslip and Best will have to muster every ounce of experience to get over the line and clinch the series. It’ll be a fantastic achievement and one to which I’m confident the Irish can pull off. Expect a tough battle up front with Ireland defending for large periods.
Score prediction: South Africa 19 – 24 Ireland