November Test Predictions - Round 4: Wales to beat South Africa for clean sweep?

Can England finish their year on a high with a sixth straight win against Australia? And will Scotland bounce back against Argentina?

Wales vs. South Africa

Saturday 5:20 p.m. (GMT), Principality Stadium, Cardiff


Player to watch: Having been declared as man of the match in Wales' 9-6 victory over Australia a fortnight ago by Gatland, Josh Adams has become an unexpected starter this autumn. Gatland has a wealth of options available to him on the wings, and Adams was probably the name at the bottom of the list in most people's eyes out of George North, Liam Williams and Steff Evans to start out wide. With his fine displays this autumn though, Adams has played his way into contention for a starting spot in 2019, but a Lion would have to make way to facilitate Adams in the side. He can make that decision a heck of a lot easier with a match-winning performance this weekend.

Biggest talking point: With the second string's routing of Tonga, Wales have the chance to complete their first ever autumn clean sweep. It will have to come, though, against their toughest opponents of the series -- South Africa. It will also have to come without Leigh Halfpenny. The Scarlets man was off-colour against Australia a fortnight ago, missing two shots at the posts from positions that would usually be bankers for a player of Halfpenny's class. His absence, though, will hand Liam Williams his chance to mount a challenge for his preferred No.15 jersey. Gatland has always seen 'Sanjay' as a winger, but now he has to prove to the Kiwi that Wales can perform with him running the show at the back.

Prediction: Wales have won their last three matches against the Springboks, including this summer's exhibition match in Washington D.C. However, the former two of those clashes were when the South Africans were in disarray while the Washington meeting was a second-string affair. The Springboks no doubt have improved since then and will provide a stern test for Wales at a time where optimism is growing for the home team. This match is 50-50 and could go either way. If you are going to watch any game of rugby this weekend, make it this one! -- Sean Nevin

South Africa

Player to watch: Damian de Allende. The Stormers inside centre has made the Springboks' No.12 jersey his own over the last few months with some solid performances. But on Saturday, De Allende and his centre partner Jesse Kriel face off against the formidable Welsh duo of Hadleigh Parks and Jonathan Davies, who are going to ask a lot of questions of the Boks on attack. De Allende is predominantly used as South Africa's battering ram from first-phase attack, as he is a powerful runner with ball in hand. But he also has a very good passing game and needs to back himself a lot more in those departments if he wants to become a world class player.

Biggest talking point: The Springboks have lost their last two matches at the Principality Stadium against Wales, while they also went down to the Dragons in D.C. in June. In fact, the Boks haven't won in Cardiff since 2013. Under Rassie Erasmus, the Boks have managed to get some big results on the road this year against the All Blacks, France and Scotland, while they also should have beaten England in their first match of this November tour. But a win could actually turn a decent season into a top one. The Boks have rebuilt nicely following two shocking years in 2016 and 2017, and victory over Wales will give them even more momentum heading into next year's World Cup.

Prediction: After the high-tackle debacle at Twickenham, the Boks have finally enjoyed a bit of luck in the last two matches against the French and Scotland. But they will need more than just the rub of the green to beat a Wales outfit who are a fantastic all-round team. Do the Boks still have something left in the tank after a long season to play at the standard to be triumphant? I think so. South Africa to beat Wales in a thriller by 5 points. -- John Goliath

England vs. Australia

Saturday 3:00 p.m. (GMT), Twickenham, London


Player to watch: Courtney Lawes. With Australia's scrum crumbling against Wales a fortnight ago, England will similarly need to punish the Wallabies at the set-piece . England have a very powerful forward pack, but it is quite inexperienced on the international stage. Lawes is the only member of that number with more than 30 caps, so his experience will be invaluable in helping guide England past the Wallabies. He will be hurting after the TMO's decision to declare him offside for Sam Underhill's disallowed match-winning try against the All Blacks, but this will be his perfect chance to put that to bed.

Biggest talking point: Co-captain Dylan Hartley has been dropped to the bench for Australia's visit to Twickenham with Jamie George taking his place in the starting XV. It's a major call from Eddie Jones, but if you base the debate on form alone then George certainly deserves to be ahead of Hartley in the race to be England's starting hooker. Hartley's form with Northampton over the last 18-months simply hasn't been good enough to warrant a place in the England side. Of course, being co-captain gives Hartley a looser noose, but with Eddie Jones stating that he's picked his "best 23" for this weekend's game, Hartley's omission is glaring. George now has his much-deserved chance to finally stake his claim to start for England, but you can bet that Hartley won't give up his spot without an almighty fight.

Prediction: This Australia side are poor. If England are to have any hope of winning the World Cup next year, they need to be putting teams like Australia to the sword. England have shown promise over the last couple of weeks, but they have yet to truly convince for the entire 80 minutes of any of their matches so far this autumn. This, though, should be the match that England take control of for the full duration. Expect England to win by 10 or more, and potentially end Michael Chieka's reign with the Wallabies. -- Sean Nevin


Player to watch: Will Genia. The veteran Wallabies No.9 brings up a century of Test appearances this weekend after making his international debut way back in 2009. Australia have had few more consistent performers during that period while the scrum-half's two-year stint at Stade Francais certainly exposed what was a bare cupboard behind him. If the Wallabies win, it's usually because Genia has had a good game, particularly on those occasions when he runs the ball. But he needs the Australia pack to be going forward for that to happen, and they haven't done much of that this year.

Talking point: The Wallabies may have got a win last week, but there was little to celebrate in their 26-7 victory over Italy. But the one genuine positive of two otherwise scratchy Test performances has been their defence, and the fact that they have only conceded one try in 160 minutes of rugby. Do that again, and they'll certainly be in the contest at Twickenham come Saturday. But there must also be a sudden improvement in their attack or a change in overall strategy as well; thoughts of the silky one-two that Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale worked against the same opposition, and same venue, during pool play at RWC 2015 are a distant memory.

Prediction: The end of 2018 can't come soon enough for Australian rugby despite such a promising start to the Wallabies' Test season. That hard-fought victory over Ireland in Brisbane should have laid the platform for a solid international season, but six months on they have just a further three wins to show for it. A first win in six against Eddie Jones' England would certainly sweeten the off-season aftertaste, but that will require a dramatic improvement from what they've shown across much of 2018. England aren't setting the world on fire themselves, but they'll do enough to win this one by 12. -- Sam Bruce

Italy vs. New Zealand

Saturday 2:00 p.m. (GMT), Stadio Olympico, Rome


Player to watch: Tommaso Allan. The Benetton Treviso fly-half has grown enormously well in the last 12 months but has failed to impress this November. In Rome he will face a threatening opponent in Beauden Barrett and a far more complicated challenge in helping the Italian backline play with pace and tempo.

Biggest talking point: The All Blacks at the Stadio Olympico means cash for the Italian Federation and a huge opportunity to gain high level experience for a bunch of the Azzurri: the ideal mix for what is supposed to be remembered as a record-breaking autumn for FIR.

Prediction: You can't ask for any more against New Zealand apart from the old, reliable requirement of "competing until the final whistle". The Azzurri must stay focused if they want to end this November on a high note. The risk is being blown away by a team that just want to get back on their feet after the Dublin loss. -- Enrico Borra

New Zealand

Player to watch: Vaea Fifita. Told to find some form in the Mitre 10 Cup during the Rugby Championship, Fifita is back in the All Blacks squad for the final Test of 2018. Overlooked in favour of Liam Squire, Shannon Frizell and Jackson Hemopo earlier in the year, injuries and form see the Hurricanes forward afforded the final chance to impress in the No.6 jersey this season. It looks like the perfect situation for him to return, too, given he loves to roam in the wider channels and possesses a strong fend. A good game in Rome will have Fifita firmly back on the radar for next year's World Cup in a position that is well and truly up for grabs within New Zealand's squad.

Biggest talking point: On the record as saying his side are stuck in transition between one game plan and the next, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has stuck to his guns and again gone with the Beauden Barrett-Damian McKenzie 10-15 combination. It was thought Hansen might look to start Mo'unga at No.10, but the Crusaders star has again been handed a spot on the bench. He will certainly get some time in the second half, just as he's done the last two weeks, but many in New Zealand are crying out for to him to enjoy quality time at fly-half before next year's showpiece rolls around.

Prediction: The All Blacks could probably do without this game after two brutal Test matches against England and Ireland, but Hansen's 11 changes will at least see some fresh legs in action. They include the likes of Fifita, Ngani Laumape and Dane Coles who have all seen precious little time recently due to injury or form. One should expect Laumape to do some heavy damage through the middle of the paddock, giving wingers Jordie Barrett and Waisake Naholo plenty of opportunities further out. New Zealand by 45. -- Sam Bruce

Scotland vs. Argentina

Saturday 2:30 p.m. (GMT), Murrayfield, Edinburgh


Player to Watch: Stuart Hogg. The Scotland full-back was back to his best against South Africa following several weeks out. His combination of kicking and running gave the Springboks plenty of problems at Murrayfield until he limped off the pitch after 63 minutes, sparking fears he might have aggravated his ankle injury. Hogg has been cleared to play this weekend and will start against Argentina, giving us another reason to watch him this weekend apart from his talents: just how strong is that ankle?

Biggest talking point: With Finn Russell shifting to centre and Adam Hastings coming in at fly-half, Scotland will start with two No.10s against Argentina. We've seen glimpses of a potential Hastings-Russell pivot this month -- there were encouraging signs from the bench against Fiji two weeks ago -- but this is the first time they will have started together. The move should give Scotland more creativity and variety in the midfield but it will be interesting to see how long Townsend persists with his experiment if it is not immediately successful.

Prediction: Even though Scotland's winning run at Murrayfield was brought to an end by South Africa last weekend, the mood around the team remains positive. Scotland to win by 10. -- Jamie Braidwood


Player to watch: Pablo Matera. In his third match as Pumas captain, and after two defeats, Matera needs to lead the recovery. The Argentine squad showed lacklustre performances in their last two Tests and Matera has to step up if they are to win a game during their European tour.

Biggest talking point: Tiredness is creeping in. It has been a long season and the players built up a lot of minutes across Super Rugby, Rugby Championship and the November Tests. They have therefore shown low intensity in their last games. Scotland have always been a tough opponent for Argentina, and it's been seven years since they beat them for the last time. Aiming for success once more, it will be important to see how they react physically and mentally for this Test.

Prediction: While Scotland always rotate their players, the Pumas are exhausted. Scotland, strong at home, will win by less than five points. -- Patricio Connolly

Ireland vs. U.S.A.

Saturday 6:30 p.m. (GMT), Aviva Stadium, Dublin


Player to watch: Will Addison. Joe Schmidt has made 14 changes to the team that beat New Zealand last weekend, with only centre Garry Ringrose keeping his place in the XV. Addison will make his third appearance for Ireland after being called from the bench against Italy and starting at centre against Argentina. His start against the Pumas, however, came at the last minute following the late injury to Robbie Henshaw, so Addison will be hoping that the circumstances around his second start will be more beneficial for transferring his impressive form for Ulster to the national team.

Biggest talking point: It has to be the uncertainty over Joe Schmidt's future. We're expecting a decision next week on whether Schmidt will remain with Ireland after the World Cup or if he will return home to New Zealand. Last weekend's historic win against the All Blacks would have only enhanced the Kiwi's reputation back home while counterpart Steve Hansen is no longer looking as secure as he was at the start of the month. A decision on his post-World Cup future is also set to be made soon. Could that have an impact?

Prediction: Even with a completely different team, Ireland still look pretty powerful. Their reserves would be too strong for most teams, let alone the U.S., so there is no doubting the result here. Ireland by 30. -- Jamie Braidwood

France vs. Fiji

Saturday 8:05 p.m. (GMT), Stade de France, Paris


Player to watch: Demba Bamba. It's pretty rare that a player on the bench should be highlighted as the one to watch -- but Bamba is a rare player, who has been on the radar of anyone watching French rugby for some time. This has been his year. In March, he was a member of France's under-20s Six Nations championship-winning squad. In June, he was the tighthead rock on which Les Bleus built their successful assault on the World Rugby under-20 championship. Lyon were quick to sign him from Brive on a five-year deal, and promptly loaned him back to the Correze side for some serious gametime in the ProD2. Now, an already remarkable year looks set to end with a first full cap. Bamba is cover for Rabah Slimani, who will make his 50th appearance for France. A nod, too, for Clermont's lock-turned-flanker Arthur Iturria, who has proved many people wrong with two fine performances at No.7.

Biggest talking point: After last weekend's win over Argentina in Lille, French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique got a bit carried away and said the cold embers of World Cup glory in Japan were glowing again. Unless Jacques Brunel can pull a Cheika 2015 out of his hat, that faint light lies under a bushel many miles beyond the far side of unlikely, but suddenly France appear to have something approaching a functioning spine again -- and with genuine options and alternatives, too.

Prediction: Ironically, despite only winning three matches so far in 2018, and despite a worse record under Brunel than under Noves, there's more than a hint of optimism about Les Bleus heading into World Cup year. Maybe it's the gung-ho young guns pushing up from below, but Le Fear that dogged the French game for so long appears to be disappearing. They still make howling mistakes, but, finally. they're not too scared to try. John McKee has picked a scarily talented Fiji 23 that can push France all the way, but Brunel's Bleus have it in them to out-Fiji their opponents. A home win at the end of a thriller... -- James Harrington