The Autumn Internationals kick into high gear this weekend with some intriguing match ups and opportunities for a few sides in particular to claim major bragging rights and in one case, perhaps even change their future. Here’s a quick preview and a look at all the team sheets.
ENGLAND vs NEW ZEALAND
Saturday 3:00 pm (Twickenham Stadium, London)
Saturday’s highly-anticipated Hillary Shield match at Twickenham is one that’s been on England’s radar for the last four years – ever since they were swept out of New Zealand, then lost their last encounter at Twickenham under then-coach Stuart Lancaster.
From the day Eddie Jones was hired, English eyes have been looking ahead to New Zealand. However, England will not have been the only team anticipating Saturday’s matchup, with coach Steve Hansen even claiming the match is bigger than the Lions series.
There are several storylines to watch for in this clash, not the least of which is England forward Brad Shields, the former Hurricanes player who made a move to England after being overlooked by the top New Zealand selectors. Also, Chris Ashton’s road has led him back to the England fold, getting a start on the right wing after being on the bench last week.
Elliot Daly; Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (co-capt), Ben Youngs; Ben Moon, Dylan Hartley (co-capt), Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Brad Shields, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell.
NEW ZEALAND TEAM:
Damian McKenzie; Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (capt).
Replacements 16 Dane Coles 17 Ofa Tuungafasi 18 Nepo Laulala 19 Scott Barrett 20 Matt Todd 21 TJ Perenara 22 Richie Mo’unga 23 Ryan Crotty.
FRANCE vs SOUTH AFRICA
Saturday 8:05 pm (Stade de France, Paris)
After a week dominated by “that tackle”, South Africa will look to avenge their loss to England with a win over France in Paris this Saturday.
Rassie Erasmus will be glad that six key European based players are back in the fold after dealing with availability issues last weekend. The return of Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk, in particular, will be key, while Gloucester’s Franco Mostert will cover for injured Eben Etzebeth, and Vincent Koch (Saracens), Francois Louw (Bath), and Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse) also return to the squad.
With his top-level form as of late, Maxime Medard gets the nod at 15 for France, while the ever-dangerous Teddy Thomas should also provide plenty of excitement for the hosts.
Maxime Médard, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Damian Penaud, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Cedate Gomes Sa, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Yoann Maestri, Wenceslas Lauret, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Mathieu Babillot, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Gaël Fickou
SOUTH AFRICA TEAM:
Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe
SCOTLAND vs FIJI
Saturday 2:30 pm ( BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh)
The two teams have played a total of seven times, with Scotland taking five wins to Fiji’s two. Fiji defeated Scotland during the 2017 Summer tour 27-22 in Suva, Fiji, so the home side will be looking to avenge that as well as turn things around following their 21-10 loss to Wales last weekend.
Coach Gregor Townsend has made nine changes to that team, including bringing back dynamic fullback Stuart Hogg.
15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Alex Dunbar, 12. Pete Horne, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Sam Skinner, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Matt Fagerson
Replacements: 16. Stuart McInally, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Jonny Gray, 20. Josh Strauss, 21. George Horne, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Chris Harris
15. Setareki Tuicuvu, 14. Metui Talebula, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Jale Vatabua, 11. Vereniki Goneva, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Frank Lomani; 1. Campese Maafu, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), 7. Peceli Yato, 8. Viliame Mata
Replacements: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Kalivate Tawake, 19. Albert Tuisue, 20. Semi Kunatani, 21. Henry Seniloli, 22. Alivereti Veitokani, 23. Eroni Vasiteri
WALES vs AUSTRALIA
Saturday 5:20 pm (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)
Wales got their campaign started last weekend with a win over Scotland and now look to run their current winning streak to seven. The problem for Wales is that they’ve lost the last 13 in the against Australia, dating back to 2008, and they’ve only beaten the Wallabies twice in 28 Tests since 1991.
Wales have a decent chance on Saturday though as the fortunes of the two teams appear to be going in opposite directions at the moment.
We’ll have to wait for the return of Adam Ashley-Cooper as the Wallabies have left him out of the match-day 23.
Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams.
Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Sefa Naivalu; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (captain), David Pocock.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Jack Maddocks.
IRELAND vs ARGENTINA
Saturday 6:30 pm (Aviva Stadium, Dublin)
Ireland beat Argentina in their most recent encounter, defeating the Pumas 28-19 last November. With the All Blacks coming to town next weekend, this could potentially be a trap for Ireland, with a temptation to look ahead.
The Pumas are an extremely dangerous side but that kind of ill-discipline has not generally been a habit with Joe Schmidt at the helm.
Jordan Larmour; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonny Sexton, Kieran Marmion; Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Dan Leavy, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway.
Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevy, Santiago Medrano; Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera (captain), Guido Petti, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Lucio Sordoni, Rodrigo Bruni (San Luis), Tomas Lezana, Gonzalo Bertranou, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Matias Moroni.
ITALY vs GEORGIA
Saturday 2:00 pm (Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence)
This is a match with major implications going forward in Europe. One major undertone from Saturday will be Italy’s response in the face of constant calls for them to be dropped from the Six Nations in favour of Georgia.
If Georgia can pull off the win, questions regarding their inclusion will only grow louder.
One major piece of negative news for Italy is that talisman Sergio Parisse will miss out due to injury.
Luca Sperandio, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Tommaso Castello, Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Allan, Tito Tebaldi, Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Simone Ferrari, Alessandro Zanni, Dean Budd, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn
Replacements: Luca Bigi, Cherif Traorè, Tiziano Pasquali, Marco Fuser, Johan Meyer, Guglielmo Palazzani, Carlo Canna, Luca Morisi
Soso Matiashvili, Giorgio Koshadze, Merab Sharikadze, Tamaz Mtchedlidze, Zurab Dzneladze, Lasha Khmaladze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Mikheil Nariashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Dudu Kubriashvili, Nodar Tcheishvili, Lasha Lomidze, Otar Giorgadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Beka Gorgadze
Replacements: Giorgi Kveseladze, Lasha Malaghuradze, Gela Aprasidze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Zurab Zhvania, Levan Chilachava, Shalva Sutiashvili, Beka Bitsadze