AO Silver Member
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: United Kingdom
County: Greater Manchester
Anyway, first up is the autumn internationals. As the rankings at the end of the year directly effect the seedlings for the next world cup, the pressure is on for all teams to improve (or maintain) their rankings. The runners and riders..
England - they have a tough schedule against the SH big three, but will confident after their summer win in SA, and have a relatively easy start against Fiji
Wales - has their progress stalled after a frustrating tour to Aus? Cruelly without the magnificent Dan Lydiate, and with Rhys Priestland out of form. On the plus side, they have the Gatfather back, and two top class openside flankers.
Ireland - Ravaged by injuries. Kidneys hand has been forced in terms of blooding new players. Could be a good thing? Captaincy may bring out the best in Jamie Heaslip.
Scotland - Again ravaged by injuries. Scotland need their best players on the field to stand a chance. Then again, Scotland often play their best rugby with their backs to the wall.
France - the cockerel to crow again. My pick for 'dark horses of the month'
Argentina - will be encouraged after a decent (albeit winless) first year in the expanded tri-nations. Will they be tired after a long season though??
Australia - a huge injury toll. The most likely scalp of the SH big three. Never a pushover though, as NZ found in their last match.
South Africa - rebuilding, and prone to over-confidence on these tours. Without Bryan Habana, who has had a great 'Indian summer' in his career. However they do have huge amounts of exciting young players coming through
NZ - will be motivated anew after a distinctly mediocre draw in their last match with Aus. Rumblings from Aoteroa suggest that some of the 'old guard' world cup winners (such Piri Weepu and Ali Williams) are there on reputation rather than form. Good, but not quite as good as the media portray them.
Inspirational, Celebrational, Muppetational....