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08th Nov 2014

All Blacks plot ‘pommy’ payback and the rest of this weekend’s rugby

Meanwhile, England are keen to lay down World Cup marker against All Blacks

Patrick McCarry

Irish eyes will be on the Saturday evening match between the Six Nations champions and the team that ended the All Blacks’ two year unbeaten run. While Ireland versus South Africa promises to be a bruiser, there are another five test matches taking place this weekend.

England versus New Zealand: The Six Nations’ second best side against a wounded All Blacks team at a venue fast becoming Fortress Twickenham all over again. The ABs won 14 consecutive matches in 2013 but were given a scare by England at at the home of English rugby, eventually winning 30-22. Beaten 27-25 by South Africa last month, Steve Hansen will be determined to finish this season with four victories. That plan started well in Chicago last weekend as the USA were skittled. on Soldier Field.

All Blacks such as Charles Piutau, Aaron Smith and Malakei Fekitoa will relish taking on the likes of Danny Care, Marland Yarde and Mike Brown. While England fell short against the All Blacks in 2013, they did get the better of them 38-21 in two years ago. If their last two meetings at Twickenham are anything to go by, we should be in for a treat.

Wales versus Australia: The Welsh have a few bogey sides and all reside south of the hemisphere. While Ireland have notoriously struggled with the Kiwis, Warren Gatland’s men have surrendered to all long-distance comers. Since last beating Australia, in 2008, they have lost nine times to South Africa and six times to New Zealand. They have met the Wallabies nine times and lost each time. The most frustrating factor in that streak has been their ability to run the Aussies close before falling away in the closing stages.

A little help from my friends: Simon Zebo and Leigh Halfpenny.

Gatland bested Australia on the British & Irish Lions tour in 2013 but was on the wrong side of a defeat when Ewen McKenzie’s side won 30-26 last November. McKenzie has been replaced by former Leinster coach Michael Cheika yet the spine of his talented team remains.

France take on Fiji at Stade de France and coach Philippe-Saint Andre has included seven new caps in his wider squad. Antoine Claasen and Rory Kockott add some South African order to a backline that could rip the Fijians asunder if properly primed. The French would be wise to keep their eyes trained on Grenoble winger Alipate Ratini, who is uncapped at test level but the leading Top 14 try-scorer this season.

Vern Cotter got his Scotland reign off to a winning start in North America over the summer. Stuart Hogg is inching back to the form that earned him a Lions call-up, Tim Visser has recovered from his leg break in late 2013 and remains a demon for tries. Argentina are on a one-game winning streak after getting a Rugby Championship monkey off their brawny backs. They came back from 14-10 down, last month, to stun Australia 21-17. A depleted Argentina pushed Ireland close during their summer tour but big Top 14 hitters are back in Daniel Hourcade’s hands.

The Italians take on Samoa at the Stadio Flamini in Rome. Manu Samoa gave Ireland a right scrap last year before slipping away late on and conceding a double to the man Brian O’Driscoll calls Dreamboat, Dave Kearney.

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