So, what else is happening out there beyond the usual big boys running into each other? Well, there are several other interesting match ups going on, and one or two might even pique your interest.
So here’s who’s playing, what the history is and why you should care. Go on, it’s only 5 minutes of your time …
Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Georgia are competing in the Pacific Nations Cup.
Rather unusually, it seems that this is not a complete round robin (although we are open to corrections!), and Georgia will play their third match against Japan instead, with Fiji taking on Tonga, but neither of these is part of the PNC.
Japan also welcome Italy, in what could be an intriguing two match series ahead of the World Cup next year.
USA play old rivals Russia and Canada either side of their match against Scotland.
The model works by looking at previous scoring patters in matches, both head to heads and generally, to work out an expected score for each team based on location and current ranking. For more information on how these calculations are made, see here, and for further predictions see here.
If you’d like to bet based on these predictions, please see here for our specific tips on using our predictions for betting.
This could be a well matched series. Italy have more pedigree than Japan, but Japan have improved a lot in recent years, and Italy have been … well … very Italy. With the World Cup on the horizon, the Japanese will be looking to establish some solid home support with two good wins to set themselves up for what will likely be their crucial group qualification match against Tier 1 Scotland, in the same group.
Japan beat Italy for the first time in 2014, when Italy last visited Tokyo. It will be interesting to see if they can repeat this feat, especially since they are now ranked above the Italians, and would be expected to on home soil. Indeed, our predictor gives them a three to four point advantage.
Japan’s last match was that drawn match against France away in Paris, undoubtedly the highlight of their year. If they can draw on that form, Italy may be in for a tough series indeed.
Historically the Pacific Nations Cup is a tournament aimed at developing the Pacific rim sides in the second tier of the rugby nations: Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga, with other sides being often being invited to compete. Japan have dropped out recently, and this year Georgia are the invitational side [Romania were invited, but pulled out].
We have Fiji winning the cup (as they have done for the past three years) with relatively comfortable home wins over Samoa and Georgia.
Most teams are similarly ranked, and this should be an interesting tournament that serves up some good games, albeit very early in the morning GMT…