International Rugby Week 1

Super Rugby takes a break for a few weeks but there’s a smorgasbord of international rugby on offer this weekend, including the Wallabies hosting Ireland and the touring French aiming up against the indomitable All Blacks. The Wolf has made Australia 1-12 his best of the weekend.

Japan vs Italy (3:45pm Saturday 9th June)
This is Japan’s first international of 2018 but they should be buoyed after some encouraging results at the end of last year, including a 39-6 rout of Tonga in Toulouse and a 23-all draw against France in Paris. Italy endured another dismal Six Nations campaign earlier this year, losing their first four Tests by at least 17 points before putting up a fight against Scotland, leading at halftime before going down 29-27. Coach of Japan since 2016, former All Black Jamie Joseph has guided the Sunwolves to some much-improved Super Rugby form this season, with players from that line-up set to form the nucleus of the national squad. The Azzurri are at a low ebb and are unlikely to pull off an overseas upset at Oita Bank Dome.
Best Bet: Japan minus
Value Bet: Japan 13+

New Zealand vs France (5:35pm Saturday 9th June)
With just three losses in their last 35 Tests, the All Blacks kick off their 2018 international campaign with a three-Test home series against the enigmatic French. France endured an ultimately disappointing Six Nations, with their win over England spoiled by close losses to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. New Zealand have been hit by injuries with Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick and Sonny Bill Williams all unavailable, but their incredible depth means they will still trot out a fearsome line-up that includes the likes of Ardie Savea, Damian McKenzie and TJ Perenara on the bench. The All Blacks have an imposing 24-4 record against France at home. France were the last international team to win at perennial Test match graveyard Eden Park – way back in 1994 – but they have lost there four times since, including the epic 2011 World Cup final. New Zealand smashed France 38-18 in Paris late last year, their 11th straight win in Tests between the fierce rivals. But the ABs are traditionally rusty in their first hit-out of the year and The Wolf thinks the line is set too high – France won’t win, but they are worth considering with a massive start.
Best Bet: France +26.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: New Zealand 21-25 ($6.50)

Australia vs Ireland (8:10pm Saturday 9th June)
The Wallabies begin their 2018 international campaign with a super-tough assignment at Suncorp Stadium. After a drought-breaking victory over the All Blacks last October, Michael Cheika’s side went backwards again with heavy losses to England (30-6) and unfancied Scotland (53-24) on their Spring Tour to revert to a familiar rebuilding phase. Ireland reclaimed the Six Nations title by going through the competition undefeated and are currently on a 12-Test winning streak that includes two victories over England and a 38-3 rout of South Africa. Australia are 21-1-11 all-time against Ireland, but Ireland have had the wood on the Wallabies in recent years, winning three of the last four Tests. This is their first encounter in Australia since the Wallabies 2010 win in Brisbane, however, and Ireland are hunting their first victory on Australian soil since 1979. David Pocock’s return from a sabbatical is a huge boost for the Wallabies, who are slight underdogs, but this shapes as an absolute cliff-hanger.
Best Bet: Triple Margin 1 – Any Other Result (Either Team Under 7.5 or Draw) ($2.15)
Value Bet: Australia 1-12 ($3.00)

South Africa vs England (1:05am Sunday 10th June)
The Springboks start as warm favourites against England at Johannesburg despite a 22-20 loss to Wales last weekend in a United States-hosted Test. Eddie Jones’ England have their own problems, however, with a big loss to a Barbarians combination coming on the back of a Six Nations campaign that nosedived with three straight losses to Scotland, France and Ireland. The contentioous selection of Kiwi Brad Shields for England has dominated the build-up, while South Africa have been hit by the injury withdrawal of Frans Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis. The Boks are 23-2-13 all-time against England, winning 11 and drawing one of the last 13 Tests between the rivals. But England prevailed at Twickenham in the most recent encounter, 37-21 in 2016. England haven’t won in the Republic since 2000 but the Wolf likes their value as underdogs against a South African side that recently slipped to seventh in the world rankings.
Best Bet: England +3.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: England 1-12 ($3.25)

Argentina vs Wales (5:40am Sunday 10th June)
Argentina have lost eight of their last nine Tests – the only win against struggling Italy – but the Pumas’ confidence will be sky-high on the back of the Jaguares’ remarkable six-match Super Rugby winning streak. Wales finished second in the Six Nations earlier this year after away losses to Ireland and England. They edged the Springboks 22-20 in Washington D.C. last week but haven’t beaten any of the current top 10 nations in their own country in almost three years, which doesn’t bode well for this trip to Santa Fe. Wales boast an 11-5 record in Tests against the Pumas, but the ledger is square at 3-all on Argentine soil. Wales have won five of the last six encounters but this is the first Test in Argentina since the Pumas romped to a 2-0 series victory in 2006. The Wolf endorses the Pumas’ favourites status and expects them to get the win via a late surge.
Best Bet: Argentina -4.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Argentina 1-12 ($2.60)

Canada vs Scotland (10:00am Sunday 10th June)
Scotland have named an experimental side for the first match of their North American tour, including a new captain in Grant Gilchrist, three debutants and a host of players with only a few Tests’ worth of experience. They are coming off an up-and-down Six Nations campaign that included home wins over France and England, and heavy away defeats to Wales and Ireland. Canada are coming off a low base, losing twice to Uruguay in early-2018 to put their place in next year’s World Cup in serious jeopardy. They also went down 29-10 to USA in February. Scotland have a 3-1 Test record against Canada, with the North Americans’ sole win coming at home in 2002. Their most recent encounter was in 2014 as the Scots scraped in 19-17 in Toronto. While not great travellers, Scotland should still be far too strong for a Canadian side at a worrying crossroads.
Best Bet: Scotland Minus
Value Bet: Scotland 16-20