England expected, Pumas to profit
Reece Killworth flags up a couple of fancies ahead of the second round of autumn internationals this weekend.
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After an agonising near miss last week with South Africa winning by exactly the handicap mark we sided with against Ireland, it's straight back on the horse this weekend for the second round of autumn international fixtures.
And we can expect things to be a good deal harder for
While Stuart Lancaster's men made a winning start to their autumn series with a 54-12 victory, things certainly didn't go as well for the touring Wallabies as they were thumped 33-6 by France in Paris.
And the fact you struggled to get past paragraph three of most match reports without mention of the word 'scrum' was particularly telling.
Such relative weakness in the Australian pack is hardly a new thing but the manner in which they were picked apart last weekend will have had England scrum supremo Graham Rowntree, for one, looking on with relish.
As is often the case, though, fragility in the pack leads to wider issues and it's more than two matches since they crossed their opponents' tryline.
They pitch up at Twickenham with just one win on the ledger in the last four matches and two defeats in two against England, though it's certainly worth noting that just two games ago they drew 18-18 with New Zealand.
Things have got so bad that even David Campese has focused more on criticising Australia than England ahead of Saturday's game.
He said: "We've got a team at the moment that can't catch and can't pass. Wallaby teams in the past were never like this. We can't even pass properly."
As for coach Robbie Deans, he said: "I just want him to go. He's the worst thing that has ever happened to Australian rugby."
Deans certainly hasn't been helped by injury problems - Will Genia and Quade Cooper aren't touring, while David Pocock misses Saturday's match because of a calf strain - and it's fair to say they're somewhat behind the eight ball here.
England started the week giving up five points on the handicap and while that's grown to -8 in places I'll play safer than backing the -6 that is still available by putting up England to win by 1-12 at 13/8.
While the Red Rose are looking for back-to-back victories, things get little easier for Scotland as they face world-ranked No 2 South Africa in the wake of a 51-22 defeat by the best in the world, New Zealand, last weekend.
As mentioned already, we had a near miss backing the Boks -4 against Ireland last time out and that's weighing heavily on my mind still.
Had they come out of the traps in Dublin in anything approaching top gear - and/or Pat Lambie kicked all of the goals on offer - there can be no doubt they would have beaten the Irish much more comfortably.
And if the same goes this week, you have to say they can be expected to beat Scotland pretty well, too.
But before piling into handicaps in the region of -10, you'd be well to reflect on the fact the last game between the sides went the way of the hosts.
And that South Africa haven't exactly been flying on the road of late, albeit with the rider that in the Rugby Championship they face pretty strong opposition!
Despite being stung by them last weekend, I'd probably still side with the Boks to overcome the -9 handicap Stan James alone offer but for reasons explained above I'll swerve this from a betting perspective.
With 'Ireland' getting the weekend off (though an Ireland XV face Fiji), the other game I'm keen to focus on is France v Argentina on Saturday night.
I've already mentioned both teams' games last weekend, but to recap the French swept aside Australia 33-6 while Argentina won 26-12 in Cardiff.
Unfortunately I didn't have the courage of my convictions in thinking Argentina with a sizeable handicap were the best bet for the latter of those matches but I'm keen not to make the same mistake this time around.
The Pumas have got a decent record against a France team ranked fourth in the world and as I mentioned above they're battle-hardened from making their debut in the Rugby Championship earlier this year.
Of the last 12 meetings between the sides, Argentina have won an impressive eight - and three of those have been in France, with two in Paris itself.
Of that dozen, 11 would have covered the +10 handicap we can get for Argentina this weekend - and there is certainly reason to explain the other.
That was the most recent game between the teams - as recently as June - but the Argentinian team for Saturday's game shows no fewer than 13 changes.
Don't get me wrong, I can still see France winning this one - albeit that's not a stone cold certainty - but that +10 handicap is just far too tempting.