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The Breakdown: A statistical look at Saturday's rugby internationals

By Jack Davies
New Zealand perform the Haka.

It’s that time of year again, when the giants of Southern Hemisphere rugby head north to take on Europe’s finest.

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The All Blacks kick off their tour in France, while Australia head to Cardiff to take on a Wales side who have a historically dismal record against the Wallabies.

Ireland lock horns with South Africa for the first time since their closely fought 2016 series, and England and Scotland take on Argentina and Samoa respectively.

With the help of Opta, we take a statistical look at Saturday’s feast of international rugby.

England v Argentina

The Pumas head to Twickenham for the 23rd meeting between these sides hoping for a first win in the fixture since 2006.

Promisingly for England, no team has averaged more points per game against Argentina (36) since the 2011 Rugby World Cup and they have won 10 consecutive matches at HQ since losing to Wales and Australia during the 2015 RWC.

Eddie Jones will be looking to winger Semesa Rokodoguni to carry his club form into the November internationals – the Bath man, who will be on the bench at Twickenham, has seven tries to his name in the Premiership this season and is one of only six players to make more than 500 metres with ball in hand.

France v New Zealand

Only South Africa (37 per cent) and Australia (26 per cent) have a better win rate versus the All Blacks than France (21 per cent), but New Zealand are on a 10-match winning run against Les Bleus.

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France have not beaten New Zealand in Paris since 1973, while the All Blacks are out to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since August 2011, having lost to Australia in their final Bledisloe Cup fixture.

The visitors could bring up a significant milestone in the French capital – they are just three short of becoming the first team in Test history to score 2,000 tries.

Ireland v South Africa

Saturday’s clash in Dublin promises to be a tight encounter after the last three meetings – all during Ireland’s 2016 tour of South Africa – were decided by exactly six points.

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Ireland have lost just two of 18 matches at the Aviva Stadium since the start of 2014 and they have won four of their last six home clashes with the Springboks.

South Africa, meanwhile, have a poor recent record on the road, having won only one of their last nine away fixtures.

Scotland v Samoa

Victory over Samoa would see Scotland achieve their best winning run at Murrayfield since 1991, having won each of their last four matches in Edinburgh.

Samoa are on their longest losing run (four matches) since 1981 but are aiming to become the 25th team to record 100 Test victories.

Finn Russell’s form in the Pro14 suggests he will have a big role to play for Scotland over the coming month. The fly-half has missed just one of 21 kicks with Glasgow Warriors – the best conversion rate in the competition.

Wales v Australia

Wales have beaten the Wallabies on just two occasions in the last 30 years but 10 of Australia’s last 11 victories in the fixture have come by single-figure margins.

Michael Cheika’s men are on their best winning streak (six matches) since the seven-game run that was halted by New Zealand in the World Cup final, although they posted both the worst goal-kicking (75 per cent) and lineout (88 per cent) success rates in the Rugby Championship.

Dan Biggar will join an exclusive club of Welshmen to have made 50 international starts at fly-half – only Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones have previously achieved the feat.

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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