It’s all go this weekend with the return of the Rugby Championship as Europe’s domestic leagues rumble on, but who will come out on top?
Australia and South Africa face off in Brisbane both feeling a little sorry for themselves after recent results back in Round Two, while New Zealand will be hoping to make it three straights wins when they welcome Argentina to Wellington.
Exeter’s meeting with Saracens on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s final is the pick of the weekend’s Premiership fixtures, while Clermont host Racing in the Top 14 and Glasgow Warriors welcome Leinster, along with new coach Stuart Lancaster, to Scotstoun in the PRO12.
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.
New Zealand v Argentina
Preview: It is hard to envisage anything other than an All Blacks title when October rolls around, but there is the small matter of seeing off the Pumas first, who have regularly been a tough nut to crack for Steve Hansen. The 26-16 win at Wembley last year in the Rugby World Cup could have gone either way.
Prediction: Expect the Pumas to keep it tight for at least 30 minutes before the hosts pull away. New Zealand to win by 18 points.
Australia v South Africa
Prediction: Although Australia haven’t had the rub of the green in their previous Tests this year, those matches were against the world’s top ranked teams so they will notch their first win of 2016 this weekend. Australia to win by eight points!
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
Experience really did tell in last season’s final at Twickenham. Saracens were the defending champions from the previous season and that extra nous counted in the early stages before Exeter found their feet, as Rob Baxter reflected afterwards. Back at Twickenham last weekend for the Double Header, Saracens were far from at their best for the opening 40 minutes before blowing Worcester away in the second half. Exeter meanwhile fell away to play-off rivals Wasps, in a tough first fixture. Saracens won this fixture home and away last season and although Exeter will be hungry to make up for last Sunday’s defeat, this doesn’t look like the right game for that to happen in. Saracens by five.
Other Premiership predictions:
Worcester Warriors v Gloucester: Gloucester by 8
Sale Sharks v Harlequins: Sale by 3
Bath v Newcastle Falcons: Bath by 9
Leicester Tigers v Wasps: Tigers by 3
Bristol v Northampton Saints: Saints by 7
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster: Rampant in Round 1 against defending champions Connacht, Glasgow will now hope to knock off last season’s finalists too when they welcome Leinster on Saturday. The precision of Glasgow’s passing and handling in Galway was quite outstanding, and they’ll hope to continue that against a Leinster outfit who appeared a little rusty in their win over Treviso. Glasgow by 10.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Newport Gwent Dragons v Zebre: Dragons by 5
Edinburgh v Scarlets: Scarlets by 8
Munster v Cardiff Blues: Munster by 5
Treviso v Ulster: Ulster by 15
Connacht v Ospreys: Ospreys by 6
Clermont v Racing 92
A repeat of last season’s semi-final sees Clermont face up against the defending champions looking for revenge. That fixture back in June went to extra-time, with Racing clinching the win on the back of Juan Imhoff’s 98th-minute try, with the Parisian outfit going on to win it all in Barcelona. Clermont have amazingly drawn two of their first three matches by scores of 30-30, either side of a crucial win over Montpellier, while Racing have now settled into their groove with consecutive wins following their opening day loss away to UBB. This looks set to be another high-scoring epic, with home advantage this time working in Clermont’s favour. Clermont by 5.
Other Top 14 predictions:
Stade Français v Castres: Stade by 8
Bordeaux-Bègles v Bayonne: UBB by 10
La Rochelle v Lyon: La Rochelle by 9
Montpellier v Pau: Montpellier by 12
Grenoble v Brive: Brive by 5
Toulouse v Toulon: Toulon by 5