During last weekend’s Autumn Internationals, Italy, Scotland and Argentina recorded statement wins, while New Zealand, Ireland and France again showed why they’re favourites for World Cup glory in 2023.
But the picture isn’t quite as rosy for Wales, South Africa, Australia and England, who will need improved performances to get their Autumn campaigns up and running this week. Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Wales v Argentina (5.30pm, 12 November)
As a partner of the Wales Rugby Union, Links Hospitality will be at the Principality Stadium to watch Wayne Pivac’s team take on Argentina who, last week, enjoyed a first win at Twickenham since 2006.
Coach Michael Cheika had never beaten compatriot Eddie Jones before that match but his side’s 29-30 victory is further evidence that the Pumas are a force to be reckoned with. Back in September, Cheika masterminded Argentina’s historic first win in New Zealand, so the signs are this will be a tough match for Wales.
Pivac’s men were punished heavily for their mistakes by the All Blacks in their Autumn opener. Amongst the few positives was a try-scoring debut for winger Rio Dyer. But Wales will need to show more physicality and better ball-carrying to overcome the South Americans.
Italy v Australia (1pm, 12 November)
Italy capped off their 2022 Six Nations campaign with a surprise win over Wales and they impressed again last weekend, scoring six tries in a 49-17 drubbing of Samoa. Australia should present a far sterner test for Kieran Crowley’s men — last weekend the Wallabies came close to beating Six Nations Champions France in Paris, only to be denied by a late Damian Penaud try.
Ireland v Fiji (1pm, 12 November)
The world’s number one-ranked side had to battle hard to beat World Cup holders South Africa 19-16 in round one, but this weekend’s game should provide Ireland with a chance to put plenty of points on the board. Andy Farrell’s men have set high standards over the past year, winning the Six Nations Triple Crown and enjoying Test series success in New Zealand.
Fiji’s 28-12 loss to Scotland suggests that the tourists will struggle when faced with the might of the in-form Irish.
England v Japan (3:15pm, 12 November)
After England’s shock home defeat to the Pumas, this fixture looks like a tricky test for Eddie Jones’ men. The well-organised, determined Japanese defence will be hard to break down — they battled hard in their narrow 31-38 defeat to New Zealand a fortnight ago — and their attack has the potential to cause problems. England have never lost to the Brave Blossoms; doing so at Twickenham would heap huge pressure on Jones.
France v South Africa (8pm, 12 November)
Expect an attritional match in Marseille as South Africa and their monstrous pack look to bounce back from defeat in Dublin against in-form France.
The Springboks came up short in the Irish capital partly because of their kicking; with the injured trio, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn ruled out, Damian Willemse, who was filling in at number 10, missed a straightforward first-half penalty before Cheslin Kolbe hit the post with a second-half conversion.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber will be hoping Willemse finds his accuracy against Les Bleus, who had to pull out all the stops to deny Australia a shock victory last weekend. The 2023 World Cup hosts are also the outright favourites, and this clash will provide a stern test of their credentials.
Scotland v New Zealand (2:15pm, 13 November)
Scotland face arguably the toughest test of any team in round two, facing the in-form and battle-hardened New Zealand. The Scots have never beaten the All Blacks, although they came pretty close the last time the sides met — the tourists edged a thrilling game 17-22 back in 2017. If this year’s fixture is as dramatic as that, the Murrayfield crowd are in for a treat.