It’s the last weekend of the 2016 Rugby Championship while the domestic leagues in Europe are in action before the Champions Cup begins.
South Africa would pull of one of the great upsets of the year if they get the better of the All Blacks in Durban, while Argentina take on Australia at Twickenham in the first Rugby Championship clash to be hosted overseas.
All eyes in the Premiership will be on Wasps’ visit to Saracens on Sunday in the league’s biggest fixture to date so far this season, while unbeaten Ulster travel to face champions Connacht on Friday night and Racing 92 host Stade Français in the Paris derby.
First things first, this is the last weekend to play our Rugby Championship fantasy game with our friends over at SuperBru. It’s been great fun so far.
South Africa v New Zealand
Preview: We keep on hearing how good this New Zealand team is and how they have got even better since last year’s World Cup despite losing the likes of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. Now is the time to show it.
Prediction: The All Blacks are in a different league to anyone else in the world but the Springboks always lift themselves for a Test against the their old foes, especially at home. The more conservative approach that bore fruit in Pretoria will keep them in touch, but will ultimately leave them short on the scoreboard. New Zealand by 12-15 points.
Argentina v Australia
Preview: Sitting on five and nine points respectively, the Pumas know they can still avoid the wooden spoon and with the very slim possibility of South Africa also finishing in last spot there’s much to play for on the final day.
Prediction: There’s little to choose between these two sides so don’t be surprised if this encounter goes down to the wire. The Wallabies will edge it though. Australia to win by four points.
Saracens v Wasps
What an absolute sizzler on the cards for Sunday. Saracens have opened the season with four wins out of five, their only loss coming away to Harlequins and more recently having headed to Ashton Gate where they nilled a hapless Bristol side in a 39-0 thrashing. But Wasps… their start to the season has been out of this world. Dai Young’s squad are playing some sensational rugby with the ball in hand, carving teams up with big wins, and running seven tries past Harlequins last Sunday. You might remember when they went to Allianz Park last season during the Six Nations, Wasps pulled off one of the shocks of the season when they won 64-23. The form is with Wasps, but Saracens know how to shut teams down. It’s a fascinating contest. Wasps to sneak it by five.
Other Premiership predictions:
Bath v Sale Sharks: Bath by 3
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester: Chiefs by 8
Harlequins v Northampton Saints: Saints by 5
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors: Tigers by 10
Newcastle Falcons v Bristol: Falcons by 5
Connacht v Ulster
Finally back on track after starting out with three straight defeats, Connacht’s win over Edinburgh will hopefully jump-start their season. Perhaps there is no better test for them now than to welcome PRO12 leaders Ulster to Galway on a Friday night. It’s a huge match-up, and with Ulster yet to lose this season Les Kiss will be wary of this trip being somewhat of a banana skin. The return of Tommy Bowe after months of injury is a big boost, although Ruan Pienaar will be missed. Heading back to Ulster with a fifth straight win under the belt would be a major boost ahead of the Champions Cup. Connacht will not make it easy. Ulster by 6.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Edinburgh v Treviso: Edinburgh by 5
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues: Ospreys by 8
Leinster v Munster: Munster by 6
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors: Glasgow by 15
Scarlets v Newport Gwent Dragons: Scarlets by 9
Racing 92 v Stade Français
Put it this way, Racing have had smoother days preparing for a Parisian derby. The late news on Thursday reporting positive steroids tests for Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff has dominated the headlines since, with more discussion about the use of TUEs than whether the champions can make up ground on the rest of the league having slipped all the way down to 11th. Stade Français’s record of three wins, a draw and three defeats leaves them sitting perfectly in mid-table, although that’s a far cry from winning the league title in 2015. These contests never lack for a bit of spice, so expect some cards. Racing by 3.
Other Top 14 predictions:
Bordeaux-Bègles v Brive: UBB by 8
Grenoble v Bayonne: Bayonne by 3
Montpellier v Castres: Montpellier by 7
La Rochelle v Toulon: Toulon by 5
Lyon v Pau: Pau by 3
Clermont Auvergne v Toulouse: Clermont by 9