The Five Toughest Tests of 2018
01 AUSTRALIA SYDNEY, AUGUST 18 The Wallabies were the last team to beat the All Blacks and while they are guilty of inconsistency, when they are on, they are good.
They move the ball particularly well and are capable of scoring tries from deep. While the All Blacks have won easily in Sydney in the last two years, it is a notoriously difficult venue for them.
02 IRELAND DUBLIN, NOVEMBER 18 The Irish have become a genuine force in the world game. They beat the All Blacks in 2016 and have managed to beat England in that period as well as thumping South Africa.
We suspect they are actually the best team in the Northern Hemisphere despite the hype about England.
Lansdowne Road is a formidable place and the All Blacks have to go there after a bruising encounter against England and four weeks on the road.
03 ENGLAND LONDON, NOVEMBER 11 These guys are good. No doubt about that and at Twickenham, they are going to be confident and supremely difficult to contain.
But the All Blacks have a habit of rising to the big occasion and the hype, the excitement and the challenge will bring the best out of them.
Will be tight and phenomenally physical.
04 SOUTH AFRICA TBD, OCTOBER 6 No one really knows what state the Springboks will be in come October, but they are never easy to beat in South Africa.
We expect the Boks to be stable and better this year, and they will know it has been far too long since they beat New Zealand – they haven’t done it since 2014.
05 AUSTRALIA, YOKOHAMA, OCTOBER 27 Typically this third Bledisloe Cup game has been played a week earlier. But this year both Australia and New Zealand will be afforded an extra week’s rest once they return from their respective overseas leg of the Rugby Championship.
Should mean they are both relatively fresh and determined to make a statement at the ground where the 2019 World Cup final will be played.