This is shaping up as one of the biggest weekends in Australian sport. If you are a fan of the various football codes, good luck getting anything done this weekend. Maybe you should save Friday night for working around the house, shopping or any of those things you feel obligated to do.
Friday afternoon sees South Africa face Samoa in the Rugby World Cup. Samoa have really battled and looked good in this World Cup, but I can not see them beating South Africa on the form that the Boks have shown so far. So it looks like the end of the road for Samoa and all of the pre-tournament favorites to qualify for the knock out rounds will be going through.
On Saturday Australia face Russia in their final pool game and Australia will go through in second place unless Italy beat Ireland on Sunday, which is unlikely as the Irish are playing at their best in this tournament. Australia’s injury crisis is so bad that Robbie Deans announced today that Number 8 Radike Samo will be starting the game on the right wing. Of course such dramatic decisions would not be required if he sent home injured backs Rob Horne and Pat McCabe who are unlikely to play again in the tournament.
Straight after the Australia game France take on Tonga in Wellington. France will also go through in second place in their group, with New Zealand topping pool A and facing Canada on Sunday.
The final game on Saturday is the old Calcutta Cup fixture of England v Scotland. An England victory looks to be on the cards and Argentina is most likely to qualify in second place having beaten Scotland by a single point last Sunday.
Argentina faces Georgia on Sunday and an upset is unlikely. The other Sunday game not mentioned so far is Wales versus Fiji which should be entertaining, but the Welsh should qualify behind South Africa as they are also showing some good form in this tournament themselves, only losing by a point to the World Champions.
Also on Saturday in Melbourne is the AFL Grand Final. Collingwood take on Geelong at the MCG and it is a tough one to call. Collingwood have had a stellar season and are favorites with the bookies. But Geelong have beaten them twice this year in the home and away rounds. It’s really anyone’s game. Caarn the Cats.
On top of the Rugby World Cup fixtures on Sunday the NRL Grand Final takes place between Manly Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors.
Manly are favorites to take the Premiership, but the Warriors have had some surprising results on the way through knocking off Minor Premiers Melbourne Storm last week to progress to the final. But everyone in Australia will be cheering for Manly, we could not stand a New Zealand team winning the NRL Premiership; we would never hear the last of it and not only from Kiwis.
English Premier League Football (Soccer)
The English Premier League has a big round of local derbies this weekend, kicking off with Everton hosting Liverpool followed by Blackburn Rovers hosting Manchester City. Probably a win for City despite their midweek Champions League stumble and the controversy over Carlos Tevez refusing to take to the pitch as a substitute, he could end up at Spurs as a similar thing happened with Emmanuel Adebayor.
Talking of Adebayor he will be in the Spurs side that will host his old club Arsenal on Sunday. He’s sure to get a warm reception from the Arsenal fans, who will be biting their nails on this one. After Arsenal‘s poor start to the season, a host of injuries and the lingering defensive frailties, a defeat to the old enemy is entirely possible.
But Arsenal showed in midweek that they can get a win even when their defending is suspect, recording a 2-1 victory over Olympiakos in the European Champions League. This was Arsenal’s 3rd win in 3 games (even if one of them was the second team against Shrewsbury in the League Cup) and saw goals from new boys Andre Santos and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is certainly going to give Theo Walcott a run for his place in the side.
Other good performances came from Alex Song and Mikel Arteta who has settled right in at Arsenal, even saving a certain goal with a goal line clearance on Wednesday. He’s not Cesc Fabregas, but the best you could hope for from a bargain picked up in the dying minutes of the transfer window.
Back to the weekend fixtures, the derbies continue with west London sides Fulham and Queens Park Rangers also meeting on Saturday. Manchester United play hosts to newly promoted Norwich, which looks like a one sided fixture, but as United have drawn their last two games there may be hope for the Canaries.
Keep your square eyes peeled and take in as many games as you can manage.
By Max Power