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Rugby World Cup warm-up previews: All Blacks to down the Boks

The final batch of Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures takes place over Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the teams look to put the finishing touches on their preparations for France 2023.

While some players will be keen to feature in order to help build their fitness, others will be desperate to protect themselves.

Intriguingly, New Zealand, who face hosts France in the tournament opener on 8th September, have selected a strong side against South Africa on Friday but the expected rotation elsewhere could see some favourites pushed hard in their closing warm-up match.

New Zealand go strong against the Boks

WhatNew Zealand v South Africa
WhereTwickenham, London
When19:30, Friday 25th August
How to watchSky Sports Mix
OddsNew Zealand 1/2, Tie 20/1, South Africa 17/10 

The last two nations to lift the Webb Ellis Cup meet at Twickenham on Friday as world champions South Africa take on 2011 and 2015 winners New Zealand.

A glamorous clash on paper, South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has selected a mix-and-match line-up, with captain Siya Kolisi continuing in the back-row after playing 40 minutes in last weekend's record 52-16 win over Wales.

Canan Moodie scored two tries in Cardiff and has been switched from the right wing to outside centre, while Manie Libbok is kept on at fly-half.

In contrast, the All Blacks have gone fully loaded, selecting close to a full-strength XV and employing a 6-2 split on the bench in anticipation of a bruising encounter.

New Zealand ran out the 35-20 winners when these two met in Auckland during the Rugby Championship but with some ABs keen to avoid injury and a number of their Bok opponents looking to break into the starting side, it may not be as open.

To demonstrate how tight things could be, the Kiwis are 10/11 carrying a -5 handicap and despite South Africa's selection, returning lock Eben Etzebeth has declared that Friday's fixture "is not a warm-up match".

Therefore, look for the try scorers and Will Jordan. The Kiwi wing scored his country’s third try in Auckland when they last met and his electric pace makes him a candidate to cross at 11/10 anytime.

Ireland need to weather the Samoan storm

WhatIreland v Samoa
WhereStade Jean Dauger, Bayonne
When19:45, Saturday 26th August
How to watchAmazon Prime
OddsIreland 1/66, Tie 50/1, Samoa 14/1

World Rugby's decision to alter its eligibility criteria in 2021 has widened the player pools of several countries, mainly the Pacific Island nations who previously lost many of their biggest talents to Australia and New Zealand.

The changes mean former All Blacks Charlie Faumuina, Steve Luatua and Lima Sopoaga will feature for Samoa in France alongside 26-cap Wallaby Christian Leali'ifano. 

Samoa, Fiji and Tonga could all cause some surprises and with Ireland set to rotate heavily after last weekend's hit-out against England, Seilala Mapusua's side have every chance of finishing inside their +25 handicap, available at 1/1, when the two meet in Bayonne.

The other standout fixture on Saturday takes place at Murrayfield as Scotland aim to sign off their preparations with a victory over Georgia.

Gregor Townsend's side have beaten both Italy and France this summer, while they also pushed Les Bleus hard in Saint-Etienne. There is a quiet optimism around the squad but they will need to be somewhere near their best against an improving Georgian side.

The Lelos beat Wales last November and are preparing for a rematch in Pool C of the World Cup where they will also face Australia and Fiji.

Scotland's rise means even an understrength side should triumph on Saturday. However, Georgia's win in Cardiff came via a late penalty and they are 13/8 to score last.

Wallabies aim for some solace in Saint-Denis

WhatFrance v Australia
WhereStade de France, Saint-Denis
When16:45, Sunday 27th August
How to watchAmazon Prime
OddsFrance 1/6, Tie 33/1, Australia 4/1

Australia appear in a bit of a mess ahead of the World Cup and Eddie Jones looks to have named his squad for the tournament with an eye on the 2027 global showpiece.

The Wallabies have lost all four of their matches over the summer but could cause a surprise in Saint-Denis, but only because France are likely to rest their big names.

Les Bleus' situation is arguably the opposite of Australia's, with Fabien Galthie evolving his squad over the last three-and-a-half years with an eye on peaking for the upcoming tournament, which they are the 3/1 second favourites to win on home soil.

Jones needs his team to pull a performance out of the bag as they look to build confidence ahead of their Pool C encounters against Georgia, Wales and Fiji.

However, the depth within French rugby means that even a scratch side can take any opposition apart and they are 5/1 to win by 11-15 points.

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