A busy schedule of November action gets underway this weekend, with standout games in Cardiff and Chicago (not often we say that).
Ireland are once again bidding to overcome the All Blacks for the first time, heading into the game at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears with a record of 0-28 against New Zealand.
Wales meanwhile have their own hoodoo to overcome taking on the Wallabies, while it will be interesting to see how a young South African side fare at Wembley Stadium against the Barbarians.
Let’s break down the games.
First things first, sign up for November predictions game with the good folks over at SuperBru!
Ireland v New Zealand
Preview: What [Ireland] will have gained from the narrow defeat is that they can compete with the All Blacks and after a long shift in Super Rugby, June and the Rugby Championship, the driving force for Ireland will now be to find out if New Zealand are feeling the effects of so much rugby.
Prediction: Ireland will make life difficult, mostly early on, but the All Blacks’ class will then shine through. New Zealand by 15.
Wales v Australia
Preview: The last time Wales beat the Wallabies was in 2008 and just two of their players from that Test – captain and prop Gethin Jenkins as well as centre Jamie Roberts – will be in action this weekend.
Prediction: There’s little to chose between these sides and although Wales will have home ground advantage, the Wallabies will edge this one. Australia to win by five points!
Japan v Argentina
Prediction: Plenty of entertainment and tries look set to be on the cards in Tokyo. But it should be an away win. Argentina by 12.
Barbarians v South Africa
The Barbarians are back at Wembley for the first time in eight years, when they suffered a 19-11 loss to Australia, but fans of the invitiational side (who isn’t) will still look fondly back on the last time the Barbarians took on South Africa in 2010, a 26-20 win at Twickenham.
Repeating that feat might be tricky, even against a young South African side captained by Patrick Lambie. The Springboks’ recent struggles aren’t exactly secret but Allister Coetzee spoke with plenty of optimism this week about how his players have trained in the month since the Rugby Championship ended with a record home Test defeat to the All Blacks.
Getting to watch a Super Rugby Hipsters’ XV come together – the ‘Barracuda’ himself Richard Buckman teaming up with rising star Seta Tamanivalu in midfield – should be fun to watch.
The Springboks could do with a lift, and even having opted for youth, should expect to win. South Africa by six.
Clermont v Grenoble
Top against second-from-bottom this weekend as Grenoble undertake what looks to be the impossible task of trying to turn over les Jaunards away at the Stade Marcel-Michelin, which might not be the fortress of old when Clermont went on their remarkable 77-game unbeaten run but still offers up little change for visiting sides.
What’s more, Clermont have looked excellent this season, losing just once in 11 matches in both the Top 14 and Champions Cup, making them one of the frontrunners in both competitions.
Grenoble therefore should be a walkover, but Bernard Jackman’s side are getting healthier and crucially as a result, getting better – putting the efforts of their second-string side in the Challenge Cup to one side.
Strangers things have happened than a shock win – or draw? – this Saturday for Grenoble. Equally, don’t be stunned if Clermont win by 30 points.
Other Top 14 predictions:
Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français: UBB by 12
Brive v Bayonne: Brive by 9
Toulouse v Castres: Castres by 5
Racing 92 v Montpellier: Montpellier by 3
La Rochelle v Pau: Pau by 6
Lyon v Toulon: Toulon by 10
Munster v Ospreys
Both sides’ respective internationals are away with Ireland and Wales, but, that doesn’t dip the interest levels in a match-up between second and fourth in the league this Friday.
Following on from Tyler Bleyendaal’s star showing on his European debut the Kiwi number ten starts again at fly-half, while Irish fans will take encouragement from another outing for Peter O’Mahony as he leads the side.
Another chance to watch promising Ospreys talent Keelan Giles in action isn’t a bad thing either, having scored eight tries in his last four matches for the Welsh region. On paper though, Munster look stronger and should win by 9 points.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Treviso v Cardiff Blues: Blues by 7
Newport Gwent Dragons v Connacht: Connacht by 8
Edinburgh v Ulster: Ulster by 5
Zebre v Leinster: Leinster by 3
Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors: Scarlets by 6