November internationals round 1 preview

Dan Carter
Dan Carter is on the bench for New Zealand's match against USA
©Press Association
Quade Cooper and Ma'a Nonu
Australia and New Zealand are both in action this weekend
©Press Association

There are only three games in the November Internationals  2014 Round 1 and only one of these is a test match. You could say it is the calm before the storm when the November Internationals are in full swing next weekend. 

Still, it gives some lower ranked teams a moment in the spotlight, with Japan hosting the NZ Maori XV, while the Wallabies get a warm up against the Barbarians and the only full test match is when the USA Eagles host the mighty All Blacks in USA.

USA vs All Blacks

This game is all about raising awareness of the game of rugby. Despite only a small percentage of Americans knowing much about rugby, 61,000 fans will pack Soldier Field in Chicago for this game.  There are far more rugby players in the USA than New Zealand, but it is limited to certain areas and schools/universities. 

There is simply a lack of history here, although ironically USA first played New Zealand in 1913 and were the most successful team when rugby was at the Olympic Games up until 1924, winning two gold medals. Australasia only entered once and won a gold medal.

USA are ranked 18th in the latest IRB rankings and the All Blacks are Number One, and given the lack of truly massive upsets in rugby compared to that round ball code, the chances of a home team win is remote. The New Zealand bookies are offering $51 on the USA to win, and giving USA a 57.5 point head start.  

This All Blacks team hasn't been quite as dominant this season with some narrower winning margins than usual, but they have still only lost one game. They have named a largely experimental team with usual benchwarmers starting, although there are some regular starters like Kieran Read and Israel Dagg, while there are some big names on the bench including Dan Carter and Julian Savea. 

It is still an impressive looking team, although I am comparing this team to the one that played Japan in Japan at the end of 2013 in a smilar type of game. The All Blacks lacked cohesion, but finally won 54-6, expect a similar performance, with a slightly bigger result, given that Japan are a better side the USA.

Given how many big, strong and fast players the USA have access to and the funding and population bases since it is now an Olympic sport, expect the USA to improve. Todd Clever is their best player and he has played Super Rugby before.  

Hopefully AIG get their money's worth out of this game, because despite Richie McCaw being used in advertising, he won't be playing. The All Blacks have bigger fish to fry over the following three weeks, but USA will be fired up for this one. 

Expect the USA forward pack to be competitive, but the All Blacks should still dominate and win easily enough.  

Most interest for All Blacks fans will be if they can escape with an impressive win, rather than simply scoring tries at will. The manner of the victory is more important. The performances of Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Nathan Harris are probably the most interesting.  

Do the USA Eagles have any chance? Expect the New Zealanders in the USA team to be really fired up for this game, while do you think that given the American coach having the same last name (spelt slightly differently) as the writer of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings is a sign of a potential upset?

My pick: All Blacks

Japan vs New Zealand Maori

This game is the toughest to pick out of the three over the weekend. Japan has been impressive the last few seasons under coach Eddie Jones, notching up wins over Canada, USA, Scotland, Samoa, Italy and Wales. 

They will struggle with the physical nature of the New Zealand Maori team. The New Zealand Maori team is made up of Super Rugby players with the odd ITM Cup only player. Watch for this game to be relatively close, but the NZ Maori team to finish strongly for the win. 

There are 11 new names in their squad and so, it will take them a while to gel. There are also some good New Zealand players in the Japan team who are of Super Rugby level, so watch for them to inspire the cherry blossom.

My pick: New Zealand Maori

Australia vs Barbarians

The Barbarians always struggle to gel. Despite the mixed bag dished up by the Wallabies recently, they should still win. The Barbarians features 10 New Zealanders and several fringe international players, but the concept of the Barbarians suggests that they will struggle to beat the Wallabies. 

It will be interesting to see Australian Nick Cummins in the Barbarians team, while the Genia and Cooper show returns to the Wallabies jersey.

My pick: Wallabies

Who are you picking to win the November Internationals Round 1?


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