Ok, we already had a bit of a thread about Scotland heroically beating the convicts, but I'm sure there are a few Irish/English/Welshies among us who want to talk up our chances of claiming a few Southern scalps.
England have gone for the defensive option in midfield with Barritt and Tuilagi, but you can hardly blame Lancaster for that - we're hardly overflowing with talent there, and the Saffas have made it clear they want to play dull, trudging rugby by picking a squad of lumps and leaving out players like Brussow and du Preez. Would like to see Jonathan Joseph come on with a decent amount of time left though. Good to see Johnson get a start - he was outstanding against the Baa Baas - and I'm pleased for Marler too, though the scrum's not really his strong point and I fear the brothers du Plessis might send him home in a body bag. Then again, think that selection was forced (Corbisiero is injured), so can't fuss too much.
Biggest shock is in the thread title - Ben Foden starting on the left wing - it's a weird one, but actually on thinking about it it's a neat way of getting Mike Brown on field while keeping Foden's experience (and running and aerial talents) - and tbf no other wingers have really put their hands up and made the position theirs. Guess JJ could have gone out there, actually, but Brown probably deserves the start more so it's all good. Probably won't be a game for the backline anyway. Good news for everyone as Care and Haskell don't make the 22, and Morgan's injury-free and able to start (hooray!). Would've preferred Palmer to Botha maybe, and possibly Dickson to Youngs, but otherwise it's all gravy. Not gonna make a prediction here.
Ireland have got some new faces too - Zebo on the wing (partnering McFadden), and Ulster's Declan Fitzpatrick at tighthead to replace Mike Ross. Bit of a crushing injury blow for Ireland, that - hope Fitzpatrick's up for it. In the backrow, O'Mahony's looked useful when he's played before - although, it seems they're playing him at 6 and SOB at 7 - thoughts on this from LLB or anyone who knows Irish rugby better? Personally, I thought O'Mahony was a specialist openside whereas I've always thought SOB has struggled at 7 for Ireland and would maybe do better at blindside? I dunno. Rest of the team looks fairly standard, Sexton and Murray preferred to O'Gara and Reddan, I think the average points difference between Ireland and NZ is something like NZ winning by 22 points so they're gonna have to have the game of their lives.
Wales have got Warburton fit but Jamie Roberts is injured, Charteris is for some reason preferred to AWJ as Bradley Davies' partner at lock, and Matthew Rees will have to come on from the bench after losing out to Ken Owens. Otherwise it's pretty much business as usual - personally, I still prefer Hook to Priestland, but the older man has to make do yet again with a place on the bench (probably to be misused at fullback or something if he even makes an appearance). Interesting to see who'll be doing the kicking out of Halfpenny and Priestland - my money's probably on Leigh. Just look at that team sheet - especially the backrow, and the props, and the wings, oh, and Halfpenny - and there's no denying that this is a phenomenal team and I honestly expect them to send Australia packing. Come on you reds, and all that.
Bring it on.