This weekend sees the World Cup kick into a higher-gear, with many of the big nations now having to showcase their potential or face the risk of being knocked-out; while on the rugby side of things, the northern vs. southern hemisphere Test comes to their climaxes; but which games should you watch?
New Zealand v France (International rugby)
The All Blacks have once again trounced the French in their two matches hosting their Northern rivals, and in turn, winning their first series of 2018. While everything is in the bag for the Kiwis, the exciting prospect for this weekend is that coach Steven Hansen has given the nod to a number of emerging players, along with some superstars returning from injury. With the likes of Damian McKenzie playing flyhalf, Sonny Bill Williams back at centre, and exciting new flanker Shannon Frizell starting, it should be a game full of open running-rugby. The French have made some notable changes too, and, as every rugby fan knows, anything is possible with Les Bleus, but it may just be a hurdle too high this time around.
Prediction: All Blacks by 15.
Australia v Ireland (International rugby)
From a neutral spectator’s point of view, the exciting series between the Wallabies and Ireland couldn’t have played out any better. With both sides 1-up, the final encounter in Sydney will prove to be the series-decider, and one which is pretty tough to call at this point. The Irish are the better all-round side, but the Wallabies seem to be rising to the occasion despite the immense pressure the national side (and Australian rugby in general) is under. Michael Chieka’s men have been playing getting back to their trademark style, which can prove difficult for any team to contain, and which will likely be the case for the Irish this weekend.
Prediction: Wallabies by 5.
Springboks v England (International rugby)
The Boks have a renewed spring in the step thanks to two wins against the English, sealing a series victory. But, with SA already having lost to Wales prior to the series, new coach Rassie Erasmus can’t afford to pick up another loss before taking on our Southern Hemisphere rivals in the Rugby Championship. On the other side of the things, England coach Eddie Jones is clearly suffering a bruised ego and will do anything to pick up at least one win on South African soil before heading home. Erasmus has opted for a slightly less experienced side for the third and final Test, but one which has enough firepower and familiar bodies to be composed under the Newlands floodlights. They’ll need to watch out for Danny Cipriani, though, who has been playing sublimely unpredictable rugby, and who has his way back into the No. 10 jersey.
Prediction: Springboks by 5.
Germany v Sweden (FIFA World Cup)
The world champions Germany will take on Sweden in an important Group F match in Sochi on Saturday after last week’s unexpected loss to Mexico. Germany looked unlike themselves during the 1-0 defeat, resulting in widespread backlash and reports of squad unrest. With Sweden in a strong position after edging South Korea, Germany’s title defence could hinge on Saturday’s result at Fisht Stadium. While Germany looked out of sorts in their opener, it’s unlikely that they’ll repeat the same lack of enthusiasm this weekend.
Predictions: Germany 2 – 0 Sweden
Japan v Senegal (FIFA World Cup)
Japan and Senegal know the winners of this clash will almost certainly guarantee a place in the World Cup’s knockout stages. Senegal produced an impressive all-round display to see off Poland in their opening match and will be confident of adding a second win against their rivals from Asia, who themselves managed to defeat Colombia in their opening game. No Asian nation has ever won both of their opening two games at a World Cup tournament before, so there’s some history for the Japanese to rewrite.
Predictions: Japan 1 – 0 Senegal