The Rugby Championship returns this weekend as the action continues in the Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14 leagues.
New Zealand might have wrapped up the title but Argentina away from home will be a tough test for Steve Hansen’s chopped and changed outfit. Meanwhile, at Loftus the Springboks will hope to get back to winning ways against the visiting Wallabies.
Big games feature in the Premiership, including the traditional Gloucester-Bath derby at Kingsholm, while in the Top 14 one of the highlights will be Montpellier’s visit to the Stade Félix Mayol to take on Toulon. Finally in the PRO12, the Ospreys travel to Belfast to try and break Ulster’s unbeaten start to the season.
First things first, you can still sign up for our Rugby Championship fantasy game with our friends over at SuperBru. It’s been great fun so far.
South Africa v Australia
Prediction: The Springboks have their backs to the wall and although the Wallabies appear to have turned the corner, playing the Boks in their backyard is always a daunting task. South Africa to win by four points!
Argentina v New Zealand
Prediction: It will be closer than the bookmakers are saying as the Pumas will be a threat. But we’re going for New Zealand by 15.
Gloucester v Bath
Games in the Premiership do not come a lot tastier than this match-up, between two local sides whose love for each other is, well, non-existant. And on top of that the two sides have certainly started the new season at very different paces. Bath before last weekend’s loss away to Leicester had won their first three matches, rejuvenated following the arrival of coaches Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson. Gloucester meanwhile have won just one of their first four games, but there’s nothing like facing Bath to knock the Cherry and Whites out of their slump. That being said, Bath’s quality should shine through, even with the return of points machine Greig Laidlaw. Bath by eight.
Other Premiership predictions:
Bristol v Saracens: Saracens by 20
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs: Saints by 3
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers: Tigers by 6
Wasps v Harlequins: Wasps by 10
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons: Warriors by 6
Toulon v Montpellier
Not your regular week for Montpellier, who after rumours circulated that fly-half Demetri Catrakilis was off at the end of the season then confirmed that Jake White, the current director of rugby, will move on when the campaign comes to a close to be replaced by Vern Cotter. Toulon probably watched on with a wry smile after the speculation surrounding their coaching staff in recent weeks, but new coach Mike Ford will prepare for his first game with the club – and what a challenge, welcoming Montpellier’s monster pack to town. Toulon looked to have missed out against Clermont last weekend before Mamuka Gorgodze muscled his way over to snatch the win. This should be similarily tight. Toulon by six.
Other Top 14 predictions:
Clermont Auvergne v Castres: Clermont by 12
Bayonne v Lyon: Bayonne by 5
Pau v Bordeaux-Bègles: UBB by 7
Toulouse v Grenoble: Toulouse by 9
Brive v Racing 92: Racing by 8
Stade Français v La Rochelle: La Rochelle by 3
Ulster v Ospreys
One of two unbeaten sides in the PRO12 so far this season, Les Kiss and Ulster welcome the Ospreys to Belfast in an intriguing match-up. Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, the Ospreys’ international half-back pairing, have a major role to play and the more they can get Ulster’s heavyweight pack moving around the field, the better. Ulster on the other hand are packed full of try-scoring threats, headlined by star signing Charles Piutau, and his role at full-back combined with Jared Payne at outside centre are worth tuning in for alone. Expect the Welsh region to push Ulster hard, but miss out. Ulster by eight.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Connacht v Edinburgh: Connacht by 5
Newport Gwent Dragons v Glasgow Warriors: Warriors by 12
Munster v Zebre: Munster by 15
Treviso v Scarlets: Scarlets by 5
Cardiff Blues v Leinster: Blues by 3