Predicting the Results of Australia's European Tour
After a disappointing opening to his career as Wallabies manager, Ewen McKenzie will be hopeful of rejuvenating his Australia side with some success on their European tour.
In six matches at this year’s Rugby Championship, Australia could win only two, both of which came against minnows Argentina, making for fairly small positives.
A trip to the Northern Hemisphere makes for the promising prospect of fresh opposition, with the Wallabies hoping of finding their groove ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Europe will pose no easy test, though, and here we’ll consider just how McKenzie and his men might fare during their autumn travels.
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Date: Saturday, Nov. 2
Venue: Twickenham, London
Time: 3:30 p.m. (BST)
Referee: George Clancy
England hold a close advantage over the Wallabies when playing on their own shores, winning 11 of their 22 encounters, losing 10 and drawing just the once.
However, one of those 10 losses came in the two sides’ last London meeting, a 20-14 result running in Australia’s favour last autumn.
Stuart Lancaster recently announced that Chris Robshaw would once again be captain of the squad, a choice that holds good reasoning despite the back rower’s omission from Warren Gatland’s British and Lions tour.
England’s November opener could therefore give the Harlequins star his opportunity to get one over the Aussies himself, having missed the chance to do so this summer.
For Lancaster, however, the biggest dilemma lies in midfield. With Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt out injured, Luther Burrell of Northampton, Henry Trinder of Gloucester and Saracens’ Joel Tomkins are all competing for the centre places alongside Kyle Eastmond and Billy Twlevetrees.
If Christian Lealiifano is fit and ready to play against England after missing the defeat to New Zealand, the Twickenham hosts are bound to have a tougher time of things, especially considering what a threat the Brumbies back gives from the tee.
England Win 24-20
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Date: Saturday, Nov. 9
Venue: Stadio Olimpico di Torino, Turin
Time: 2 p.m. (BST)
Referee: Glen Jackson
In 15 attempts, Italy have never managed to claim as much as a draw against Australia, let alone go on to claim victory.
This November will be the first encounter between the two teams in Turin, where the Italians will hope to, like Scotland, use one of their more impressive Six Nations campaigns as a springboard for further success.
Probably the easiest run-out Australia will have on their tour of the Northern Hemisphere, Jacques Brunel named his 35-man training squad at the start of October, containing only six players outside of Zebre and Treviso.
While Italy’s two Pro12 representatives are slowly growing into their roles as European powers, one can’t help but sense that there still exists a gulf in quality between their talents and those of Super Rugby.
The Wallabies have showed in their last two outings—a tough loss away against New Zealand and a thumping of Argentina—that they are perhaps starting to get their wheels in motion under the new regime.
Over the years, Italy’s fight and grit have often gotten them out of some sticky situations, but the task could well be out of their reach on this occasion, although the likes of Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni will have something to say about it.
Australia Win 33-17
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Date: Saturday, Nov. 16
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Time: 5:45 p.m. (BST)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Ireland are in a strange place right now given that the 2013 Six Nations will go down as one of their most disappointing, yet most of the provincial clubs have continued to see success.
Granted, that success is thanks to the input of a handful of foreign acquisitions, but Josef Schmidt has a job on his hands in guiding his side from a state of transition into its next era.
The New Zealander takes charge of the first Test series as head coach of the Irish national side and could launch a few surprises if his hugely successful Leinster reign is anything to go by.
The only three uncapped players in the Irish training squad are David Kearney, Jack McGrath and James Coughlan, none of whom is undeserving of his credit. All are likely to make autumn debuts.
Munster, Leinster and Ulster are almost solely responsible for the talent in Schmidt’s current roster, with a lot of places up for grabs under the new regime.
Australia will find any homework undertaken to be of little use against an opponent likely to take on an entirely new look in the coming weeks—but with a huge array of talent on hand.
Ireland Win 28-26
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Date: Saturday, Nov. 23
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Time: 7 p.m. (BST)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
While their rugby pedigree of the last decade or so may not speak of it, Scotland have actually been just as successful against Australia, both Home Nations surrendering 66.67 percent of their results to the Wallabies.
Between 1982 and 2009, the Scots failed to win even one Test against those from Down Under, but they have hit a hot streak against the Southern Hemisphere side of late, winning both of their last two meetings.
One might not want to rule out a boring fixture in Edinburgh, however, with each of those last two fixtures producing an average of just 16 points, largely concentrated on Scotland’s defence.
That being said, the last year or so has seen Scott Johnson inject a big attacking impetus in the side.
A mix of youth and seasoned talent is likely to line up when Johnson takes on his native country in November with the likes of Jonny Gray, brother to Castres-based brother, Richie, just one of those likely to gain their debut.
Scotland are fortunate in facing Australia closer to November’s end and will get a chance to size up their opponents in the week’s leading up to the Wallaby Test.
A hugely contentious area for the Edinburgh hosts will be the back row, with players such as Glasgow Warriors Chris Fusaro and Edinburgh’s Dale Denton hopeful of standing up to the challenge that Australia pose in that position.
Australia Win 34-25
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Date: Saturday, Nov. 30
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Time: 6 p.m. (BST)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Australia will receive an early examination of the opposition they’ll face at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in their fifth and final autumn fixture, where Wales pose a substantial challenge to finish against.
It’s clear that Warren Gatland has an extremely talented pool of players to choose from. It’s merely a case of piecing his tools together into a team that can live up to the standards shown at this year’s triumphant Six Nations championship.
Rhodri Williams, Eli Walker and Cory Allen have all shone for Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues so far this season, respectively, and are highly likely to receive their chances in the coming six weeks.
Regardless of the controversy that’s swirling around the Welsh regions currently, Wales continue to thrive on the national stage and will get the chance to resume that run in November.
Rhys Priestland and Dan Biggar are likely to battle it out for the fly-half position, something that could prove to be telling if Quade Cooper retains his place as Australia’s No. 10.
The Welsh pack looks as strong as ever and is likely to be the staple of the side this autumn in both open play and at the set piece, while a number of aspiring back talents could make the most of any opportunities afforded to them.
Wales Win 30-17