Wales v Scotland: Warren Gatland's side can see off under-strength rivals
Simon Mail previews the first weekend of the autumn internationals which features Wales v Scotland and Ireland v Italy...
"Wales have dominated their recent clashes against Scotland winning ten of the last 11 matches between the teams. This includes a convincing 34-7 home victory back in February's Six Nations game."
Wales v Scotland
Live on BBC One
Wales building momentum ahead of the World Cup
Wales appear to be in excellent shape with less than a year until the World Cup. Warren Gatland's team have climbed up to third in the world rankings after second place in the Six Nations and have won their last five matches including a victory over South Africa and a series win in Argentina. Wales are building momentum and Gatland could sign off his tenure with a bold run in Japan next year.
Scotland are making progress under Gregor Townsend although the head coach has yet to translate their excellent home form into success on the road. Their frustrations away from home were summed up by the defeat to the USA in June and Townsend must manage without key players such as the injured Stuart Hogg and unavailable Finn Russell in Cardiff.
Wales have dominated their recent clashes against Scotland winning ten of the last 11 matches between the teams. This includes a convincing 34-7 home victory back in February's Six Nations game. Scotland have not won in Wales since 2002 and it is difficult to make a strong case for them ending this drought at the Principality Stadium this weekend.
Gareth Davies is one of Wales' key players and the scrum-half has become a potent finisher. Davies has already scored five tries for the Scarlets this season and he has an impressive international record. The back has scored a try in both of his matches against Scotland and he looks generously priced to add to his tally for Wales this weekend.
Schmidt shuffles team for Chicago match
Ireland v Italy
Live on eir Sport's YouTube channel
Ireland are the second best team in the world and Joe Schmidt's side will get the chance to take on New Zealand - the number one ranked nation - later this month. It will be an intriguing showdown and will offer an indication of Ireland's credentials heading into the Japan World Cup but their first task is a relatively low key international against Italy in Chicago.
This year could not have gone much better for Ireland after winning the Six Nations Grand Slam and clinching a first Test series triumph in Australia for 39 years. It is a much-changed Ireland team for this weekend though with Conor Murray still sidelined due to injury and Johnny Sexton rested as Schmidt looks at some of his fringe players.
Despite these changes, Ireland should be confident about another comfortable win over their Six Nations opponents. The Irish have won 23 of their last 24 clashes against Italy and with something to spare for the majority of them. Ireland have scored at least 56 points in their last three meetings with the lowest margin of victory 37 points.
The handicap mark is pitched at 28 points and this looks well within Ireland's compass although it might be better off backing the favourites to cover a 14-point first-half handicap. Ireland have made fast starts against Italy and led by at least 18 points at half-time in their last three meetings. Schmidt's side may ease up after the break but their superior quality can see them open up a significant first-half lead.
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