England will be looking for revenge after the Springboks' recorded a narrow 31–28 victory two years ago YouTube: England Rugby

Last weekend saw the start of the long-awaited Autumn Internationals, as the Southern Hemisphere’s rugby nations began their north of the Equator tours. While Wales were humbled by Australia in a disappointing 32–8 defeat, Ireland did the unthinkable and felled the All Black monolith with a 40–29 victory.

Spurred on by the memory of Anthony Foley – the Munster head coach and former-Ireland No.8, who passed away suddenly just 4 weeks ago –the Irish were rampant. It is hard to think of the last time that any team put 40 points past New Zealand, and Ireland had never beaten them in 111 years of trying. It was their finest performance for a long time, if not ever, and sets the scene for a hugely exciting month of international rugby.

This weekend sees all of the Six Nations in action, with the clash between England and South Africa at Twickenham the most eagerly anticipated. Elsewhere, there is no doubt that the All Blacks will bounce back against Connor O’Shea’s new Italy side, and it would be a surprise if Canada cause Ireland too many problems in Dublin. While the same should probably be said of Samoa in Toulouse, you just really never know with the French.

Scotland v Australia, Edinburgh (Saturday, 2:30pm)

In a repeat of last year’s World Cup quarter-final at Murrayfield, Scotland will be desperate to avenge the last-minute and highly controversial 35–34 defeat to the Wallabies. A questionable refereeing decision cost them that day, but they will have to play extremely well if they want to be in the same position in the final minutes here.

Scotland have certainly improved in the last couple of seasons, but they had a tight series with Japan in the summer, winning both tests narrowly; it will be hard to discount the impact of the recent announcement that Scottish head coach Vern Cotter will be leaving his role at the end of the season. 

Meanwhile, although Australia may not have been dominating of late, there have certainly been signs of improvement: they pushed the All Blacks all the way in the final Bledisloe Cup test, and put Wales away with relative ease last weekend.

It will take a special performance from Scotland to get a result, but it should be an entertaining test either way, as long as the Scottish weather holds out. 

Prediction: Australia win.

Wales v Argentina, Cardiff (Saturday, 5:30pm)

After the disappointment of losing to Australia last weekend, Wales will be looking to put in a big performance against Los Pumas. With Warren Gatland having temporarily stepped down due to his commitments with the Lions, Wales have perhaps lost some stability despite their team looking strong on paper thanks to the return from injury of George North, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Justin Tipuric. Their experience and home support should give them what they need to get the job done.

Their opposition, though, will provide a fierce challenge. Argentina have been building over the past couple of years and, despite an impressive victory over South Africa in Buenos Aires, have not quite hit their peak in 2016. It is clear that they have benefited a great deal from playing in the Rugby Championship; their skill set has improved massively and their forwards are as powerful as ever, always posing a significant threat. They worried New Zealand, Australia and South Africa throughout the tournament, but have struggled to consistently put together 80 minute performances.

However, if they get it right this weekend, it could be a hell of a test match.

Prediction: Wales win.

England v South Africa, London (Saturday, 2:30pm)

England have not beaten the Springboks since 2006 – having managed only a 14-14 draw in 2012 – but Eddie Jones’ men will be looking to put the record straight on Saturday at Twickenham. The team is largely as expected, though it was somewhat of a surprise that Semesa Rokoduguni was left out in favour of Jonny May – who has only just returned from injury – and that Tom Wood has managed to break straight back into the starting XV.

The most exciting selection, though, is that of Elliot Daly, who replaces Jonathon Joseph at 13 to make his first test start. It will be interesting to see how he copes against such an aggressive side as South Africa, but there is every chance that he will be the one causing them problems if he gets half a chance.

Keep an eye out, too, for Nathan Hughes when he comes on: he is a big lad and should be able to give England good front-foot ball. There could also be a debut for exciting young Kyle Sinckler from the bench.

The Springboks have struggled at times this year, and were frightfully exposed by the All Blacks at home last month, when they were beaten 57–15, having trailed only 12–9 at the interval. They are certainly a side in transition, but that does not mean that this will be a walkover by any stretch of the imagination. They have some hugely talented players, as well as others that are just hugely huge. It will be an enormously physical battle and England will have to be right on top their game to get the win.

Indeed, having had to negotiate so many injuries, it is reassuring that Jones has been able to fall back on some of the trusted combinations developed by Stuart Lancaster. 

Prediction: England win

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