Friday, 18 June 2010
The Axis of Power: Weekend Predictions
Is this the new axis of power in international rugby?
Australia scrum-half Genia is back to face England in Saturday's clash at Sydney's ANZ Stadium after recovering from a knee ligament strain. He will link up with club mate Quade Cooper to form a Queensland Reds half-back pairing with Matt Giteau returning at inside centre in place of Berrick Barnes.
It's not a bad 9, 10, 12 combination is it?
Genia burst onto the international scene last year with some sniping performances and has already been hailed as world class. Cooper is a constant threat with the ball in hand, and Giteau is the running fly-half/centre that England fans could only dream Danny Cipriani would be.
Genia's opposite number is Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs who makes his first start for England. No pressure then, Ben.
It's great that Youngs has been given the chance to shine and show off his undoubted talent against the top scrum-half in world rugby.
Courtney Lawes also makes the XV, pushing veteran second-row Simon Shaw to the bench.
Other than that, England have made no changes to the side which crashed to a 27-17 defeat by the Wallabies in the first Test in Perth last week.
The positive from that game was England's domination at the scrum which reaped two penalty tries. However, England's backline failed to fire and looked limp in attack against the green and gold wall. I wonder how coach Martin Johnson has tried to remedy this in training this week?
My prediction: More of the same. Australia to win by 12.
Elsewhere, Wales take on New Zealand in Dunedin in their tour opener.
Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and have never won on New Zealand soil - something Warren Gatland, Wales' Kiwi coach, wants to fix.
The men in red's last victory over one of the Tri-Nations superpowers in the southern hemisphere was in New Zealand, when they beat Australia 22-21 in Rotorua in the third-place play-off for the 1987 World Cup.
The last match between Wales and the All Blacks in New Zealand was in Hamilton in 2003, when the home side won by a record 55-3 score, one of 22 Test victories for the Kiwis in 25 matches between the sides.
History does not give Wales reasons to be cheerful then - especially as the All Blacks demolished Ireland 66-28 last weekend.
Ospreys lock Alun Wun Jones is back to face off with Brad Thorn at line-out time and the performance of Wales' tight five will go a long way to determining the result of this match. Wales' line-out has been an area of weakness which was again exposed by Victor Matfield in the 34-31 defeat by a second string South Africa earlier this month. Add to that a sub-par back row, and Wales will have their work cut out for them as they face off against the All Blacks.
My prediction: New Zealand by 26.
Meanwhile, Scotland have made one change for their second and final Test against Argentina following their 24-26 win last weekend.
Wing Simon Danielli replaces Nick de Luca in a move that sees Max Evans switch from wing to centre for Saturday's game in Mar del Plata.
The inclusion of Danielli is an obvious bid by coach Andy Robinson to get some tries on the board. The Scotland boss hopes Danielli's try-scoring form will break down Argentina's defence after all Scotland's points in the first Test came from the boot of in-form fly-half Dan Parks.
My prediction: Scotland to win by 6.
Finally, the other game to be played tomorrow sees South Africa take on the ever improving Italy. Despite the Azzurris' stronger performances in this year's Six Nations, I can't see the result of this game being anything other than a cricket score in the Springboks' favour.
My prediction: South Africa to win by at least 50.
News just in: Ireland lost 31-28 to the New Zealand Maoris at Rotorua.