Autumn Internationals: State of play and best bets

The Autumn Internationals are a key development ground for the home nations coaches
The Autumn Internationals are a key development ground for the home nations coaches

The Autumn International series for the Northern Hemisphere nations always delights and delivers, and for many is becoming more anticipated than the Six Nations.

This year they take on further significance as they come 10 months ahead of the World Cup in Japan, and will serve as a key indicator to the work still to be done in order to be contenders in September 2019.

Here, we look at the state of the four home nations and pick out our best bets for the opening weekend of matches.


Recommended bets

2pts Wales to beat Scotland by 13+ points at 15/8

2pts Jonny May to score a try at 11/8

2pts Jack Conan to score a try at 13/8

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record


England

After six defeats already in 2018, will Eddie Jones be smiling after the Autumn Internationals?
After six defeats already in 2018, will Eddie Jones be smiling after the Autumn Internationals?

Head coach Eddie Jones recently described their Autumn programme as just "sparring", but he knows these match-ups are much more than that.

We are unsure where to put England currently. After an initial impressive two years under Jones, 2018 has been a nightmare and games against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia will give us much more of an indication as to the state of play.

After Six Nations titles in 2016 and 2017, Jones would have been expecting just to be tinkering with his side now, and starting to build towards peaking for the World Cup. But six defeats this year and a huge injury list means it feels more like Jones is rebuilding at this vital time.


England fixtures

  • November 3: South Africa
  • November 10: New Zealand
  • November 17: Japan
  • November 24: Australia

The forwards named to start on Saturday against South Africa highlights this. The back row has 10 caps between them, while props Kyle Sinckler and Alec Hepburn have 13 and two caps to their names respectively. Second row George Kruis is England's second most capped forward, with 26 - it tells a story.

What's expected of England

A minimum of two wins out for four, against Australia and Japan, must happen. South Africa is a game that could go either way. But three victories and a good showing against New Zealand will put England right back on track.

England v South Africa best bet: Jonny May anytime try scorer at 11/8

Seven tries in 2018 for England, four tries in his last four games, with one each in the three Tests against the Springboks in the summer.

What's more the summer Test series and Rugby Championship saw South Africa leak most of their tries out wide, so fellow winger Jack Nowell at 11/8 anytime scorer is also tempting.


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Our new Weekend Best Bets Podcast brings you the Sporting Life tipsters' advice for the sporting weekend


Ireland

Number eight Jack Conan in action during Ireland's Test Series win in Australia
Number eight Jack Conan in action during Ireland's Test Series win in Australia

A wonderful 2018 quite rightly makes Ireland a World Cup contender and they would expect these Autumn Internationals to only cement this tag.

The last year has seen a third Six Nations grand slam success, their first series win in Australia for 39 years, and a more expansive game plan to finally make Ireland a threat across the park.

With Italy, Argentina and the USA opponents this month, Ireland have a great chance to build further winning momentum.


Ireland fixtures

  • November 3: Italy (in Chicago)
  • November 10: Argentina
  • November 17: New Zealand
  • November 24: United States

All eyes will be on the clash with New Zealand, as the two best sides in world rugby go head to head. Ireland have only beaten the world champions once in 30 matches, and never on Irish soil.

If they can do that on November 17 it will be the final mental hurdle the Irish need to jump to become the complete package required for World Cup success.

What's expected of Ireland

With expectations raised, big wins against Italy and the USA must happen. Argentina improved during the Rugby Championships, but are not the force they have been in the past, so that must be won too. New Zealand is the one true Test this month.

Ireland v Italy best bet: Jack Conan anytime try scorer at 13/8

The number eight has three tries in nine appearances, and enjoys the Autumn Internationals after scoring this time last year against Fiji. As Ireland rest some of their big stars for the further tests ahead, Conan will see this as another opportunity to press his case for more starts after a solid summer down under.

Wales

Warren Gatland will step down as Wales boss after the 2019 World Cup in Japan
Warren Gatland will step down as Wales boss after the 2019 World Cup in Japan

The Red Dragon is stirring and ready for attack. Warren Gatland's side finished second in the Six Nations, have beaten South Africa twice in the last 12 months and earned a 2-0 series victory over Argentina in the summer.

They have a refreshed squad, full of options and competition for places. Gatland will have to ensure he gets his selections right and does not become a tinker man.

What has stopped Wales becoming a team considered real World Cup contenders, despite their talent, is the mental side of the sport and game management.


Wales fixtures

  • November 3: Scotland
  • November 10: Australia
  • November 17: Tonga
  • November 24: South Africa

They have struggled to consistently beat the South Hemisphere nations and, especially in World Cups, have failed to win these close, knockout matches that come down to the wire.

If they can use this Autumn to solve these issues, then they will feel confident going into 2019.

What's expected of Wales

Three wins from four would be a good return, but they should be targeting four from four. South Africa will be their toughest test, but that's the final game and the Springboks will be battle fatigued from four months of top Test rugby.

Wales v Scotland best bet: Wales to win by 13+ points at 15/8

Scotland have not won in Wales since 2002, and were defeated 34-7 in February in Cardiff. Expect this game to be closer, but with both teams unable to call on players from outside their own county, Wales' superior strength in depth will see them through.

Scotland

22-year old Adam Hastings starts at fly half for Scotland against Wales
22-year old Adam Hastings starts at fly half for Scotland against Wales

Scotland are vastly improved under Gregor Townsend and have created an exciting style, but as a still developing team they lack consistency, especially away from Murrayfield.

The summer proved as much, a 44-15 hammering of Argentina and an expected comfortable victory over Canada followed by that shock defeat to the USA.


Scotland fixtures

  • November 3: Scotland (in Cardiff)
  • November 10: Fiji
  • November 17: South Africa
  • November 24: Argentina

But, luckily for Scotland, the point of the Autumn Internationals is home advantage, as Scotland return to Murrayfield, the scene of their 2018 Six Nations wins over England and France.

A year ago, these internationals marked the return of Scotland as a rugby force as they beat Australia and ran New Zealand close. If they can beat Fiji and Argentina at least this time, they will continue to grow as the World Cup approaches.

What's expected of Scotland

Fiji and Argentina must be beaten. South Africa are better than Scotland, but could be distracted by their other tour games, and Scotland have a habit of upsetting at least one big game hunter from the Southern Hemisphere each year. Their poor away form means a defeat is most likely in Wales.

Wales v Scotland best bet: Wales to win by 13+ points at 15/8

See above.


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