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Autumn Internationals Preview: 19-20 November


Football is hogging the sporting headlines at the moment. But with England v New Zealand and Ireland v Australia coming up, this weekend's Autumn Internationals will certainly give the FIFA World Cup a run for its money in the entertainment stakes. Here's more on this weekend's fixtures...

Italy v South Africa (1pm, Saturday)

The Azzurri are on a high after registering a historic first victory over Australia last week. They may have had to ride their luck during that 28-27 win — the Wallabies missed a conversion right at the death — but two wins from two Autumn Internationals suggest the Italians are thriving under Kieran Crowley. A fortnight ago they defeated Samoa and next up they face World champions, South Africa, who are yet to win on tour after defeats to Ireland and France. 

Despite that — and Italy's good form — the Springboks will be overwhelming favourites in Genoa. Jacques Nienaber's side have extraordinary power up front and ran the French pack close last weekend. But they will have to watch out for free-scoring Italian full-back Ange Capuozzo, who ran in two tries against the Aussies. 

Wales v Georgia (1pm, Saturday) 

After their heavy loss to New Zealand a fortnight ago, Wales showed defensive steel in defeating Argentina 20-13 — no mean feat given the Pumas' sensational win over England at Twickenham. Taulupe Faletau played a key role, scoring the opening try and adding grit to Wales' forward play. Head coach Wayne Pivac will need more of the same from his No 8 against Georgia, who are known for their ferocious pack. 

Scotland v Argentina (3:15pm, Saturday)

Gregor Townsend's men let a nine-point lead slip in their 23-31 defeat to New Zealand last Sunday, meaning their 117 years of hurt against the All Blacks continues. That said, there were plenty of positives for the Scots to take into this weekend's meeting with Argentina. Stuart Hogg looked back to his best, while Townsend's decision to recall prodigal son Finn Russell to the first team was rewarded with a maestro performance. Having lost 15-16 to Australia and beaten Fiji 28-12 in their previous Tests, a win over the Pumas is needed to end their Autumn series on a high.  

England v New Zealand (5:30pm, Saturday)

Arguably the game of the weekend sees a repeat of the 2019 World Cup semi-final. On that occasion, a Manu Tuilagi-inspired England dominated the All Blacks, but the odds on a repeat performance are slim, given the patchy form shown by Eddie Jones’ men of late. Having flopped in the Six Nations and slumped to defeat against Argentina in their Autumn Test opener, England badly needed last weekend’s 52-13 victory over Japan. They’ll need to raise their levels again when New Zealand arrive at Twickenham, given the impressive form the tourists have shown of late — the Rugby Championship winners have won three from three so far this Autumn and look to be getting stronger as the World Cup draws ever nearer. 

Ireland v Australia (8pm, Saturday)

Ireland’s motivation for winning this mouth-watering clash is massive — they can end the year as the world’s No 1 side with a victory. So far, Andy Farrell’s men have coped well with the pressure of being top dogs, having beaten world champions South Africa and overcoming Fiji thanks to a superb double try-scoring performance from openside flanker Nick Timoney. Their opponents, Australia, will have a point to prove after their shock defeat in Florence. And they certainly have the quality to cause the Irish problems. 

France v Japan (1pm, Sunday) 

Next year’s World Cup hosts and favourites are looking in good shape as the tournament approaches. They completed a 12-month clean sweep of the Southern Hemisphere sides last week, edging South Africa 30-26 in a bruising encounter in Marseille. Now they’re looking for another victory to extend their astonishing unbeaten run to 13 matches. For the Brave Blossoms, it’s a chance to claw back some pride after a heavy defeat to England.