This weekend sees the highly-anticipated Euro 2016 tournament kicking-off and the international rugby season getting underway. There are some huge games on the fixture list, but we’ve picked the five biggest that you need to keep your eyes on:
France v Romania (Euro 2016)
The Euro 2016 gets underway on Friday night, and France manager Didier Deschamps is under pressure to deliver the European Championship trophy in their home nation. Deschamps’ team have talent in abundance, especially Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann – which should give the attacking talent and home support to see off Romania. Romania themselves have had a decent record as of late (only losing one game in their last five), but will will have their work cut out if they are to contain the French side.
Prediction: 2-0 to France
New Zealand v Wales (International rugby Test)
Wales have played at Eden Park against New New Zealand two times before and are yet to beat the All Blacks on their home-soil, and things are unlikely to change on Saturday. The match will also see a new era for the All Blacks, with the rugby world taking a keen interest in how the team handles the exodus of six stalwarts following last year’s successful World Cup campaign. The only real concern for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen could be in midfield, where the new centre pairing of Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa face the experienced Welsh combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies. But if things go according to plan, the All Blacks should put the Welsh away without a hiccup.
Prediction: All Blacks by 10
Wallabies v England (International rugby Test)
England, coming off the back of a Grand Slam Six Nations win, will be attempting to win their first-ever Test series in Australia, but the Wallabies are looking the more balanced and attacking-minded team. That said, England’s set-piece has been strong in recent games and will likely be their focus for the first Test. The mental battle between former Australian coach and now England coach, Eddie Jones, and Wallaby boss Michael Chieka will be an interesting element too.
Prediction: Wallabies by 5
Springboks v Ireland (International rugby Test)
A new-look South African side prepares to host Ireland for a three-match Test series that sees the first encounter on Saturday at Newlands in Cape Town. While having fresh faces in the management and on the pitch, the Springboks are a stronger and more well-prepared side for the occasion, whereas the Irish players are coming off the end of their northern season. It’s looking to be a competitive contest for the opening stages of the game, but South Africa’s strengths in the forward pack and evasive backline players should only end in a South African victory come the final whistle
You can check out our full preview of the Springboks v Ireland game here.
Prediction: Springboks by 12
England v Russia (Euro 2016)
England take on Russia in Marseille on Saturday night as they kick off their hopes of winning Euro 2016. Russia got the better of England in qualifying for Euro 2008, finishing second in the group behind Croatia, who won 3-2 at Wembley in their final qualifier to eliminate Steve McClaren’s side. This time around, Russia will also of course present a stern test of England’s chances, but the fine form of the English heading into the tournament should offer plenty of encouragement for Hodgson’s men.
Prediction: 1-0 to England
What match are you most excited for this weekend? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us at @MenStuffZA.