With the World Cup less than a year away, this weekend’s Autumn Internationals should offer a few clues as to which sides should be considered genuine contenders.
While Links Hospitality will be at Wales’ mouthwatering clash with New Zealand, there’s plenty of interest elsewhere. Here’s a guide to the weekend’s action, and be sure to check out our latestrugby hospitality packages.
Scotland v Fiji (Saturday ,1pm)
Scotland were a Blair Kinghorn penalty away from beating Australia last week; unfortunately for the home side the number 10 missed his last-gasp effort, consigning Gregor Townsend’s men to a narrow 15-16 defeat. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom — there was much to encourage the Scots ahead of Saturday’s game against Fiji, not least the performance of full-back Ollie Smith who scored a try on his debut. With Stuart Hogg and Adam Hastings returning to the starting line-up against Fiji, the home fans will expect a return to winning ways.
Wales v New Zealand (Saturday, 3:15pm)
Wales pushed South Africa all the way in their 2-1 summer Test series defeat. They’ll be hoping another impressive performance can lead them to beat New Zealand for the first time in nearly 70 years at the Principality Stadium. The All Blacks suffered a scare against Japan last weekend, wobbling to a 31-38 victory. And with Leigh Halfpenny, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric all back from injury, and winger Louis Rees-Zammit in excellent form for Gloucester, this could be a great opportunity for Wales to finally register a win over the Southern Hemisphere side.
Ireland v South Africa (5.30pm)
Ireland's form suggests they're genuine World Cup contenders. A historic summer series win over the All Blacks followed a Six Nations campaign in which they scored more points (168) than any other nation. If they can live with the 'favourites' tag and beat South Africa, it'll be another marker in the sand for Andy Farrell's entertaining side.
France v Australia (8pm)
France are Six Nations champions, and for many, they're the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup next year. Les Bleus despatched New Zealand last Autumn and went on to dominate their European rivals in 2022. They probably have the most exciting squad in World Rugby and will be expected to beat Australia, who could be a little battle-weary after a difficult Rugby Championship campaign.
England v Argentina (Sunday, 2.15pm)
November is an important month for Eddie Jones' side. England are seemingly way behind Northern Hemisphere rivals Ireland and France in their World Cup preparations, having lost three of their five Six Nations matches in 2022. Their first opponents this Autumn, Argentina, have been impressive under Michael Cheka. And with Jones still searching for his best starting XV it could be a difficult Sunday afternoon for the hosts.