Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the 5 matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week … 3 are Test matches as we ease into the Southern Hemisphere Test burst, 1 is a Super Rugby match given that the Aussies have a strange old season in trying to accommodate a full Lions tour, and the last is a warm up match in Brisbane for said touring Lions.
Each Rugby 5 bet comprises 5 matches, which are labelled M1 to M5. In each match the home team is shown as Team A and the other as Team B, and you must predict the results of all 5 matches using one of the following 5 result options:
1 = Team A to win by difference of 1 to 12 points (say 7-3, 10-9, 24-12 etc)
2 = Team A to win by difference of 13 points or more (say 19-6, 20-3, 32-6 etc)
3 = Draw
4 = Team B to win by difference of 1 to 12 points
5 = Team B to win by difference of 13 points or more
So a look at the weekend then …
M1: New Zealand vs France
No Dan Carter for the All Blacks is probably the first things that hits one when thinking about the outcome of this match, but then French coach Philippe Saint-Andre caused a surprise of his own by handing fly-half Camille Lopez his international debut ahead of the vastly more experienced Frederic Michalak for the first Test in Auckland. Saint-Andre is looking to bounce back from a poor Six Nations which saw France take home the wooden spoon for the first time since 1999. Piri Weepu and Tony Woodcock also miss out through injury, but Cruden, Smith and Crockett, all in fine Super Rugby form, hardly weaken the number one ranked side in the world. Kieran Read skippers the home side, boasting 377 Test caps, in their first meeting since the All Blacks won the World Cup Final (8-7 in fairly controversial fashion) at the same venue in 2011. Maxime Machenaud, dropped during the Six Nations, is back at scrum-half ahead of Morgan Parra, unable to tour because of injury, to form a very untested half back combination. It is the seventh different halfback partnership in 16 Tests. Otherwise Saint-Andre has stuck largely with the team that failed to inspire during the Six Nations, and I do not see them changing their fortunes around at Eden Park, especially at the end of a long season that saw Toulon dominate, a team that does not provide much in terms of the national cause. 1st plays 6th in the world rankings, at Fortress Eden Park, with no World Cup jitters, and having won 21 of their last 25 encounters in New Zealand.
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M2: Queensland Reds vs British & Irish Lions
The 2013 British and Irish Lions have destroyed all that has come before them thus far, dispatching of the Schalk Brits swinging very amateur Barbarians in Hong Kong, and then putting more than 60 points past what the Telegraph called the “Western Farce” given their team selection, which was aimed at keeping the strongest side in shape for their match against the Waratahs on Sunday. They look fit, well drilled, very professional, accurate and in Australia to play rugby, not enjoy a holiday. But they are clearly yet to be tested. But that should change against the Reds, who have named an impressive side for the game at Suncorp, with Quade Cooper getting the nod at fly-half. Cooper , currently persona non grata with Robbie Deans given his “Toxic environment” chirps, will see the game as his last chance to prove that he is worthy of a spot in the squad for the forthcoming Test series. Still without seven Wallabies, yet able to field a strong side with nine Test players in the starting line-up and a further three on the bench, their downfall might indeed be Cooper trying too hard to impress, rather than feed the likes of Rod Davies, Luke Morahan and Ben Lucas. But with an average of only 18.9 points being scored against them in Super Rugby this year, second only to the Brumbies (who edge the Sharks), the Lions will definitely have more work to do on attack. The Lions beat the Reds 42-6 the last time they were on Australian soil, but coach Ewan McKenzie will be hoping his team emulate the crop of 1971 who downed the Lions 15-11
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M3: Scotland vs Samoa
Samoa are ranked 7th in the world by the IRB, while the Scots come in at a lowly 10th, but given how the Somaons were blown away by the Golden Lions on the weekend, I am not too sure how much can be read into the rankings. That said, they are certainly bringing in extra ammunition for this unique encounter that sees the Scots and Samoans play a curtain raiser to the Boks as part of a quadrangular. South Africa, Scotland and Samoa are in the same group for the 2015 World Cup, giving the series a bit of much needed extra spice. And the Scots, of course, are missing 3 players away in Australia on the Lions tour. Their team shows five changes and one positional switch to the team beaten 23-16 by France the final-round Six Nations match. Scotland have won 7 of 8 Tests against Samoa since they first met 22 years ago with the other ending in a 15-15 draw.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1
M4: South Africa vs Italy
The 2nd best side in the world, according to the IRB, at home, against the 12th ranked side in the world. South Africa and Italy have played each other 10 times since 1995, with the Springboks winning all 10 Tests. South Africa and Italy last met on 26 June 2010 in East London. The Springboks won 55-11. The last time they met at Kings Park, the Boks won 101-0. The Springboks have scored 533 points and 74 tries; conceded 129 points and 11 tries for average score of 53-13. The Boks have played 28 test at Kings Park, of which they have won 17, lost 8, and drawn 3. Morné Steyn, back to his best as a points machine, will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok fly-half, with 41 Tests. Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 69 Tests in this position. How he teams up with JJ Engelbrecht is perhaps the only question mark over this massively exciting team selected by Heyneke Meyer, which sees the mercurial Willie le Roux at full-back, and the in-form Jano Vermaak at scrum-half. The Italians, who were impressive in the Six Nations, to be full of bluster for the first 20 minutes, but then peter out badly.
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M5: Force vs Waratahs
13th plays 8th on the Super Rugby log … Both teams are out of the play-off race, so it is about pride, and given that the Force were keen to keep players back for this rather than let them play a once in a life time game against the Lions, one has to presume they are taking it seriously! In their last game the Waratahs prevailed 23-19 and with the Tahs having lost 10 players to the Wallabies and plenty to injury, it will no doubt again be a tight affair. Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley form a more than solid half back combination able to dominate games, and Wallaby Drew Mitchell will be itching to impress. The Tahs also boast the best scrum in the tournament, making them a very difficult side to get on the back foot. Injuries could play their part though, with benches on the thin side at this stage of the tournament. The Force, having gone down to the Lions midweek, will need to regroup, but given the difference in sides selected, that should not be a problem. They boast a better defensive record than the Tahs, having leaked an average of 23.1 points per game to the Tahs 24.6, but the big differentiator is that the Tahs have score 26.5 points per game while the Force have only managed 16.6.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1