Simon Mail previews the Autumn International fixtures including Wales' game against Australia and Ireland's clash with South Africa...
"Their record against Australia makes dismal reading with Wales losing the last 12 clashes between the teams stretching back to 2008."
Wales v Australia
Live on BBC Two
Wales face a tough opener in their first Autumn international hosting Australia at the Principality Stadium this weekend. Warren Gatland is back in charge of the side after his time out leading the British & Irish Lions to their series draw in New Zealand. Gatland says he wants to adopt a more expansive style across their backline but this could be a work in progress against the Wallabies.
Australia come into this game with renewed belief and confidence after their 23-18 home win over world champions New Zealand last month. This was a timely result for Michael Cheika's side after a difficult year. But the victory over the All Blacks was a significant boost and the Wallabies backed this up with a nine-try 63-30 win over Japan. Australia are looking dangerous again and this does not bode well for Wales.
Their record against Australia makes dismal reading with Wales losing the last 12 clashes between the teams stretching back to 2008. But many of these defeats have been by the narrowest of margins with ten of the last 11 coming by no more than nine points. The Wallabies appear to be coming into this one with more momentum after their recent victories and are fancied to maintain their stranglehold over Wales with another tight win in Cardiff.
Ireland v South Africa
Live on Sky Sports Action
Ireland will be put to the test this weekend with a home clash against South Africa. Joe Schmidt's side will be looking at different pairings across the Autumn internationals with the aim of developing the team ahead of next year's Six Nations. The Irish managed to deny England the Grand Slam last season after their 13-9 win and the team remain a very difficult side to beat at the Aviva Stadium.
The Springboks have made some progress over the last year as they strive to rebuild their team. South Africa have proved obdurate opponents, aside from a trouncing in New Zealand, pushing the All Blacks all the way in a 25-24 defeat in Cape Town recently. There is no doubt Allister Coetzee's side are much improved from the team which were at a low ebb 12 months ago.
Ireland are favourites for this match but there is every reason to expect a tight encounter and the visitors could be worth supporting in the handicap market. South Africa have drawn their last two games against Australia and have also beaten Ireland in the last two clashes. The Springboks are handed a six-point advantage and this looks tempting in a match which could easily go either way.
Back South Africa +6.5 to win @ 10/11 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Scotland v Samoa
Live on BBC One
There is plenty of optimism in the Scotland camp for the future after a promising start to life under new boss Gregor Townsend. A memorable 24-19 win in June over Australia in Sydney was a huge step in the right direction and underlined the growing confidence in the squad. Their subsequent defeat to Fiji was a disappointment but the expectations within the team are increasing as Townsend builds on the positive work achieved by Vern Cotter.
Samoa come into this match under a cloud after their prime minister declared the sport bankrupt. The team will hope to put their off-field problems to one side as they chase a shock win over Scotland. Samoa finished last in the Pacific Nations Cup in the summer which resulted in head coach Alama Ieremia stepping down. It is far from a vintage team and few will expect them to cause too many problems at Murrayfield.
Scotland are overwhelming favourites for this match with the handicap mark set at 21 points. Samoa could make a lively start but Scotland's superior fitness should tell as the match progresses. It might prove closer than many expect though with their last four wins over Samoa all coming by no more than seven points. There could be some value in backing the hosts to win by up to 12 points in a clash which has proved pretty tight down the years.
Back Scotland to win by 1-12 points @ 13/5 (Betair Sportsbook)
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