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The Lineout: International Edition #2

Can the South take back international rugby's bragging rights?

by Aanu Adeoye
17 June 2016, 4:43pm

As is always the case with the inter-hemisphere rugby internationals, the first round of mid-year tests last weekend boiled down to one question: who is better, North or South?

The answer, sadly, was a resounding NORTH. The Australians were limp against the English in Brisbane, where the visitors won their first ever test and gave vocal ex-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones plenty to crow about.

The Springboks were just as underwhelming in Cape Town, as Ireland won their first ever test in the Republic with new boy Paddy Jackson running the till at first-five.

Even the All Blacks, who eventually ran out 18-point winners at Eden Park, were made to sweat by a combative Welsh team.

The Chiefs restored some Southern dignity in their tour game mid-week against the Welsh, handing the Men from the Valleys a 40-7 hiding in Hamilton.

Can Southern dominance be restored this weekend? Who knows, especially not the pundits at The Lineout – who predicted just three of six winners last week. Expect better things in week two.

Tonga vs Georgia in Suva, today

Two minnow nations, and little broadcast potential. The honest truth is the only way you'll see any of this game is if something crazy happens, and a video goes viral.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tonga; Nili Latu, loose forward. Georgia; Giorgi Begadze, halfback.

PREDICTION: Tonga by 5.

New Zealand vs Wales in Wellington, today

Isn't it always the way? The All Blacks show rust in the first game of the year, but hit back at about a million miles an hour the following week.

There's little analysis needed here. The Welsh were appalling in their mid-week loss to the Chiefs, and missed their upset opportunity at Eden Park.

Expect a long night in the office for the Boyos.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: New Zealand; Israel Dagg, fullback. Wales; Taulupe Faletau, number eight.

PREDICTION: New Zealand by 30.

Highlights of first test between New Zealand and Wales.

Australia vs England in Melbourne, today

When Eddie Jones took over England, you just knew there would be a fire lit under the side. Who knew it would happen so quickly?

England's defeat of Australia in Brisbane last weekend was incredibly impressive, and they look likely to be the favourites in Melbourne again tonight.

Australia will be missing influential flanker David Pocock for the match, but should regain parity up with England's big men with James Slipper and Sekope Kepu coming back into the front row.

England have never won a test series in Australia, meaning eighty minutes of good rugby separate them from history.

There's a feeling around Lineout HQ that will get the biggest hint on the eventual victors after the first scrum. We think the Aussies will show slightly more muscle in what could be a thriller.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Australia; Michael Hooper, flanker. England; Dylan Hartley, hooker.

PREDICTION: Australia by 1.

Japan vs Scotland in Aichi, today

Don't be ashamed to admit it: you're not really that interested in the result here.

Well, maybe only if Japan wins and wins well. In that case, there is a tiny amount of emotional investment.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Japan; Yu Tamara, first-five. Scotland; Stuart Hogg, fullback.

PREDICTION: Scotland by 7.

A classic encounter between Scotland and Japan at the 1991 World Cup.

South Africa vs Ireland in Johannesburg, tomorrow

How about this for an incredible stat: only two teams in the professional era of rugby have managed a three-test series victory in South Africa. The famed '96 All Blacks, and the British and Irish Lions of the following year.

The 2016 Ireland team, improbably, stand on the cusp of joining that prestigious company - though the Lineout doubts whether the deal will be sealed in Johannesburg this weekend.

Make no mistake: Ireland were incredible last week and the Springboks probably took them too lightly. But on the Veldt, with CJ Stander out of action for the Irish, expect things to be a hell of a lot tougher.

Look for the big South African rugby machine to rumble back into life, creating an interesting third test finale in Port Elizabeth.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: South Africa; Willie le Roux, fullback. Ireland; Jared Payne; fullback.

PREDICTION: South Africa by 10.

Irish flanker Jordi Murphy talks after the game about beating South Africa.

Argentina vs France in Tucuman, tomorrow

Ah, the French and the Argies. Our beloved Latin rugby lovers. Games between these two nations are as wild and passionate as you can imagine; rugby affairs of unpredictable quality – and results.

The Argies are always tough to beat at home, and are coming off a tough 30-24 victory over Italy. Expect a similar score-line in Northern Argentina this weekend.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Argentina; Matias Moroni, centre. France; Jules Pilsson, first-five.

PREDICTION: Argentina by 4.

BONUS: Classic mid-year internationals throwback

When Manu Samoa took on Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney in July 2011, no one expected anything less than a Wallabies rout. But what transpired was one of the great upsets in international rugby history.

Samoa beat the Wallabies 32-23, and while they've gone off the boil internationally since, it remains one of the finest days in the Island nation's rugby history.

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