There is some fantastic international rugby union to be played this week with the French tour of Australia getting underway as well as the 2021 British & Lions Tour. Jim Tucker is back with a full preview and betting tips for some of his favourite matchups of the week below.
Wed, July 7, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 8pm (AEST)
It’s always tricky pegging two teams at the start of a series, especially two that have not played a Test against each other for nearly five years. It is especially so with the under-strength French side selected for this three-Test series, one without star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, classy running fullback Brice Dulin and so many others. Any French players involved with Toulouse and La Rochelle in the French Top 14 final were not considered for this series because of the quarantine time frames. That means there are seven new caps in this French side for Suncorp Stadium.
No French team has won a Test in Australia since 1990 which is the best pointer of all because even the best French sides lose mojo away from home.
The Wallabies have enjoyed an extended training camp in the build-up. They will be far better grooved.
There are still no established provincial partnerships in the inside backs with scrumhalf Jake Gordon (Waratahs), flyhalf Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) and inside centre Matt Toomua (Rebels) all drawn from different teams. Outside centre Hunter Paisami (Reds) is drawn from another team again. Striking a good backline combination may take some time but those pieces all fit nicely in terms of complementary skills.
Lolesio will greatly benefit from Toomua’s experience and calm voice beside him. Gordon is a runner so there'll be twin attacking triggers to play off. The bookies are cautious of the French because of their hot Six Nations form but this is not the side ranked No.5 in the world.
The Wallabies are good things to cover the 9.5-point start they are giving the French.
You have to be excited too about the hammering power of the backrow with in-form duo Harry Wilson and Rob Valetini joining Michael Hooper. There’s running power in the pack too in the lock spots with Matt Philip and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. There’s also some good lift possible from the bench through Tate McDermott, Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell in particular.
Thursday, July 8, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, 3am (AEST)
There’s so much interest in the Springboks-Lions series which is finally going ahead with strict COVID protocols. Once upon a time, these provincial match-ups were regular ambushes for the Lions but the Sharks are stripped of their Springboks. They are even stripped of a roaring home crowd advantage in Durban because this will be played in Johannesburg away from fans.
For some, only flyhalf Curwin Bosch will ring a bell in terms of experience in the Sharks line-up. You have to fancy the Lions covering a 23.5-point start. The better value is backing fullback Liam Williams to score two tries at $5.
The top Lions outfit won 56-14 in their tour opener and there’ll be a hefty score to this game as well.
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