Our mates over at the MaulOver Podcast have nailed their colours to the mast and given us a run down of their predictions for another HUGE weekend of rugby! Let us know your thoughts…
Bristol v Leicester
Bristol continue in their attempt to avoid making a complete London Welsh of this season. The boys from Ashton Gate are at least showing some signs of life behind the scrum, and will be hoping to take advantage of a Leicester defence that has appeared to have more holes than Gleneagles in recent times. The Tigers pack though should win the upper hand and supply Freddie Burns with enough possession to work his occasional magic.
Ben – Leicester by 14, Russ – Leicester by 20, phil – Leicester by 6, George – Bristol by 1
Northampton v Newcastle
Injuries, international call-ups and a once-again suspended Callum Clark ensure that Saints will be forced to field a back row knocked up from string and papier-mâché. The home side will be hoping that their current brand of try-free rugby can generate enough penalty opportunities for Stephen Myler to see off the visitors. Newcastle are the league’s lowest scorers and have largely struggled away from home, to make matters worse Mike Delany has suffered a mild case of the yips in front of goal and will struggle to match Myler.
Ben – Northampton by 6, Russ – Newcastle by 3, Phil – Saints by 2, George – Saints by 6
Italy v Tonga
Both sides are coming off big wins, with Italy’s historic mugging of South Africa trumping Tonga’s narrow win over the USA. Italian fans, delighted to have found a fly-half without breeze-blocks for feet, will be confident that their forward power and decent set-piece will be too much for the islanders.
Ben – Italy by 11, Russ – Italy by 22, Phil – Italy by 15, George Italy 8
England v Argentina
England will be without their best player of the autumn, thanks to Joe Launchbury’s suspension. But with George Kruis set to return in his place, it is the back three that provides the only selection controversy. Eddie Jones’ side have proved they carry an attacking threat but their set-piece will be tested by the visiting pack. However Argentina have endured a long season and, the feisty Martin Landejo aside, have looked ready for the beach. With confidence sky high, the English should fancy their chances
Ben – England by 21, Russ – England by 16, Phil – England 19, George – England 21
Scotland v Georgia
The Scots should be on a high after their last minute win over Argentina but will need to be wary of Georgia, the world’s keenest scrummagers, who will have a point to prove against Six Nations opponents. Greig Laidlaw should be careful he doesn’t allow an arm-wrestle to develop and the relentless Jonny Gray will need to lead a big forward effort in order for Scotland’s talented backs to prosper.
Ben – Scotland by 6, Russ – Scotland by 20, Phil – Scotland 12, George – Scotland 12
Ireland v Australia
The battered Irish start as favourites but are without their creative heartbeat in the form of the injured Jonny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw. With Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo and CJ Stander sweating on fitness tests, the crowd at the Aviva can expect to be treated to the comedy stylings of Keith Earls. The Australians have shown steady improvement since being given the Eddie Jones treatment in the summer, and the Wallabies attacking lines will prove a test for the swarming Irish defence. If the Aussie forwards can maintain parity the men from down under will fancy their chances against an Irish side on the comedown after the sugar rush of two magnificent clashes with the All Blacks.
Ben – Australia by 4, Russ – Ireland by 6, Phil – Australia 4, George – Australia 1
Wales v South Africa
Without Warren Gatland Wales have looked more than a little rudderless this autumn, with Rob Howley playing Stan Laurel to Shaun Edwards’ sullenly aggressive Hardy. They will therefore be pleased to welcome a South Africa side whose own coach Allister Coetzee appears to have been channelling both of the Chuckle Brothers since taking the job. The Springboks come off a walloping from England and a humbling in Italy and have looked a shadow of their brutal forebears. Wales are welcoming back Taulupe Faletau and Welsh fans will be looking to see how well combines with Ross Moriarty and Sam Warburton.
Ben – Wales by 6, Russ – Wales by 10, Phil – SA by 4, George – Wales 2
France v New Zealand
The All Blacks do not want to return home with two losses in their suitcases but will be wary of their bogey side who are now showing signs of improvement, or at least some sanity in terms of selection. However the New Zealanders must be strong favourites, particularly now that Twitter’s impromptu citing mob, formed in the aftermath of the controversial win in Dublin, has failed in its attempt to impose anything from lengthy bans to the death penalty on half the Kiwi line-up
Ben – New Zealand by 14, Russ NZ by 8, Phil – NZ 20, George – NZ 11
Exeter v Worcester
Exeter, boosted by the return of scrum half Will Chudley, are showing signs of stirring into something approaching the form of last year. The Warriors travel to Devon with a worrying habit of failing to close out tight games and, despite the emergence of some talented youngsters, are sitting second from last in the league table. Rob Baxter will be confident of shepherding his boys to a comfortable home win.
Ben – Exeter by 22, Russ – Exe by 14, Phil – Exeter by 13, George – Exeter 9
Saracens v Gloucester
The Saracens Panzer rumbled on at Sale last week. With Alex Lozowski running the show in the absence of their international contingent the men in black have not eased off the throttle in recent weeks. Gloucester will hope that last week’s humbling of Wasps was a sign of the plan finally coming together rather than the dead-cat bounce of the occasional big win that we have become accustomed to. With Matt Scott in fine form Gloucester will pose a threat but Saracens should have too many extra gears for the Cherry and Whites.
Ben – Saracens by 15, Russ Saracens by 10, Phil – Saracens 12, George – Saracens 13
Wasps v Sale
Wasps will be stung into action by their defeat last week and their hoarde of Sale old-boys will want to impress against their former club, with Danny Cipriani particularly keen to atone for his double banana-skin moment of last week. Sale have largely disappointed this season despite some moments from Sam James and W**l A****on in open play. A visit to the stirred-up Wasps’ nest does not seem the most likely occasion to snap back into form.
Ben – Wasps by 24, Russ – Wasps by 12, Phil – Wasps by 15, George – Wasps 2
Harlequins v Bath
Bath’s injury curse struck again last week. With Rhys Priestland now out for as long as 12 weeks and George Ford away on international duty, the away side will rely on young Adam Hastings at outside half and will hope the hard-working Matt Garvey is fit to return on Sunday. Harlequins have so far been strong at home, but in addition to their internationals, will be without James Horwill and his celebrity finger for what promises to be a tight encounter at the Stoop
Ben – Harlequins by 4, Russ – Bath by 8, Phil – Bath 10, George – ?