Autumn Internationals: Wallabies could have the edge again in World Cup rehearsal

Wales winger George North
George North scored in Wales' win over Scotland last week
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Simon Mail previews this weekend's international matches including Wales' home game against Australia and Ireland v Argentina...

"Wales have a terrible record against Australia having lost their last 13 clashes stretching back to 2008. But the majority of these have been exceptionally close with 11 of the last 12 settled by no more than nine points."

Wales v Australia
Saturday, 17:20
Live on BBC Two

Confident Wales building momentum

Wales were not at their best last weekend but their 21-10 victory over Scotland gave them their sixth consecutive victory. It means Warren Gatland's side face their bogey side with plenty of optimism about ending their wretched run against Australia. Wales are building momentum and have the chance to land a psychological blow ahead of the World Cup clash next year.

It has been a pretty forgettable year so far for Australia with coach Michael Cheika coming under intense pressure after a run of seven defeats in ten Tests. The Wallabies have lost three of their last four matches including a dismal home defeat to Argentina and the 2015 finalists have a huge challenge if they are to contend at the World Cup next year.

Wales have a terrible record against Australia having lost their last 13 clashes stretching back to 2008. But the majority of these have been exceptionally close with 11 of the last 12 settled by no more than nine points. Although this looks a good opportunity to end their run, the value has to be with the Wallabies as slight outsiders to continue their stranglehold over Wales.

Ireland should be too strong for Pumas

Ireland v Argentina
Saturday, 18:30
Live on Channel 4

Ireland are on a brilliant run under Joe Schmidt and the second ranked team in the world have to be taken seriously heading into next year's World Cup. The Six Nations Grand Slam winners have won 15 of their last 16 matches which includes a series triumph in Australia. A much-changed Ireland team eased to a 54-7 win over Italy last week with full-back Jordan Larmour scoring a hat-trick.

Argentina certainly have to be taken seriously with several notable scalps recently. Mario Ledesma's side defeated South Africa in August and the following month pulled off a win in Australia. The Pumas seem to be building momentum and their set-piece game has improved after a poor run of results in recent years.

Ireland will not have forgotten their World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina three years ago so their opponents cannot be taken lightly. That said, the hosts are overwhelming favourites and should justify this status even if the 18-point handicap is far from a given. Ireland should maintain their momentum with another win and there could be value in backing them to a claim a victory by 11-20 points.

Scotland may not dominate Fiji

Scotland v Fiji
Saturday, 14:30
Live on BBC One

Scotland started their autumn internationals with a defeat in Wales and Gregor Townsend was critical of the way his team defended and started the match. It continued their poor form on the road but Scotland have been extremely difficult to beat at home. In fact New Zealand are the only team to have beaten them in Scotland since November 2016.

Townsend has described Fiji as the Brazil of rugby, with the likes of Racing 92 forward Leone Nakarawa, and this sums up the attacking flair and natural ability of this weekend's opponents. Fiji face a tough challenge qualifying from their World Cup pool, after being pitched in with Wales and Australia, but this will be a good opportunity to test themselves against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Scotland are 15-point favourites but the hosts would do well to remember their 27-22 defeat to Fiji last year in Suva. Fiji have covered this handicap in the last six clashes between the sides so they appear wrongly overlooked and the outsiders look worth backing in support of this generous head start.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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