This weekend, third test matches on the Home Union sides summer tours of the Southern Hemisphere
Australia v Ireland 11.05am Saturday Sydney
Ireland’s summer series in Australia will come down to a winner-takes-all finale in Sydney next week after the tourists secured a first away win in Australia in 39 years.
With big hitters like Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong back in the starting XV following the 18-9 first Test reversal, Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations champions produced some of their best rugby of the season as they over-powered the Wallabies at the breakdown, where captain Peter O’Mahony was immense.
Both sides will count the cost of this bruising encounter in the coming days after a host of players were forced off injured, but they will have to do it again in seven days’ time and Ireland have the wind in their sails after tries from Andrew Conway and Furlong and a 16-point haul from Sexton saw them home 26-21
A physical game saw both coaches go to their replacements early but Ireland handled the disruption better and went on the attack, with Keith Earls scything through the defence from a superb Sexton pass.
Jack McGrath and Earls were denied tries by marginal decisions, but both times play came back for Irish penalties and after Sexton kicked to the corner, they finally got their reward as Furlong powered through Nick Phipps’ tackle to score.
Sexton converted but Ireland were made to sweat for their win as McGrath saw yellow and Taniela Tupou forced his way over from close range.
Foley converted to make it a five-point game with less than two minutes remaining but despite finishing with a makeshift team, the visitors held on.
The Australians came out the wrong side of a 15-12 penalty count and conceded 13 points during Koroibete’s spell in the sin bin
For the decider in Sydney Australia have been priced up as underdogs, 6/4 against Ireland at Evens and +2 at 10/11 on the points handicap.
This has to be an over-reaction, these are two closely matched teams and Australia have plenty of firepower, with Ireland probably some more tactical nous. However the 6/4 Australia with Ladbrokes is an attractive bet
South Africa v England 4.05pm Saturday Cape Town
South Africa wrapped up their summer Test series with England a week early on Saturday as they beat Eddie Jones’ ill-disciplined side 23-12 in Bloemfontein.
England made the perfect start once again – as they did last week in Johannesburg – with tries from Mike Brown and Jonny May putting them 12-0 ahead inside 13 minutes.
South Africa responded via a Duane Vermeulen try and two Handre Pollard penalties before the interval, and in the second half a penalty try and another Pollard effort set them on their way.
England failed to score a point in 67 minutes of rugby and when Nathan Hughes was sin-binned for a needless piece of cynical play with 10 minutes left, any chance of a comeback, both in this respective Test and the wider series was gone.
For the first part of the match England looked sharp in attack but poor discipline (13 penalties conceded) and missing too many first up tackles meant they were overpowered against a dominant Springbok set-piece and in the end it was a worse performance than that produced at Johannesburg
England had two problems during the six nations. First the lack of creativity in midfield and lack of pace in the side. Secondly problems in the back row meant they were regularly getting bested at the breakdown
Seven tries in the last two games and selections to add more pace to the line-up suggest that the first problem is on the way to being solved. The second, with the pack second best on this tour, is an ongoing issue. With 25 players unavailable for selection after a long domestic season, options are limited
At least this match in Cape Town is not at altitude and you would think the discipline problems are an easy fix.
Odds for this match are South Africa 4/5 England 6/4 and +4 at 10/11 on the points handicap with Ladbrokes.
I will take England +4, which feels contrarian but England have to improve.