By Nicola Kenton
- England begin their Autumn internationals campaign against South Africa following their 2-1 series defeat to the Springboks in the summer.
- Wales and Scotland will face off both looking to keep improving ahead of next year’s World Cup
- Ireland take on Italy in their first Autumn international
AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS – The Home Nations compete against the best teams in the World in this year’s Autumn internationals with one eye on the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
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Can England bounce back?
It was a disappointing Six Nations campaign for England this year. Coming off the back of two titles including a Grand Slam, Eddie Jones’ side could only finish fifth in this year’s competition. During the summer, England toured South Africa and won the final test match but that means they have suffered six defeats in the last seven matches and they now face a stern test in this year’s Autumn internationals.
For their four fixtures, England play South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia – all of these will test different skills but the main objective is looking ahead to next year’s World Cup. When England were unbeaten in 18 Test matches, there was talk about them being able to match the All Blacks but this chat has all but disappeared. These matches are a chance for England to find a rhythm without players such as Billy Vunipola available to them.
Speaking to ESPN, Jones said:
“What I’ve learned about the World Cup is that the only time you need to be at your best is the World Cup. All the leading up to it is sparring, it’s practice rounds, getting combinations right. So as long as we’ve got in our head that we know what the team is — and we do, certainly myself and the assistant coaches do — then we’ll be alright. We need our best players to be fit for the crux game at the World Cup which is going to be in the later rounds of the pool.”
World Cup on the horizon
With the 2019 World Cup now only one year away, these internationals represent some of the last opportunities the Home Nations will have to play these sides before the competition in Japan next year. England were the only Home Nation side not to make it through to the knockout stages last time and Eddie Jones’ men will be hoping to change this. Although, England will not play anyone in their Pool during these internationals, they are playing teams that they will potentially meet in the next stages of the competition.
Ireland and Scotland have been drawn in the same pool alongside hosts Japan, Russia and Samoa. Neither of the sides are playing those team but they are playing the likes of South Africa and New Zealand. Ireland secured the Grand Slam with victory at this year’s Six Nations while Scotland finished third having beaten England, France and Italy. Scotland will be looking to continue their attacking style of play whereas Ireland have rebuilt well and need to keep pushing forward.
Wales are the only Home Nation to face on of the teams in their Rugby World Cup pool, as they were drawn against Australia once again. During this year’s Six Nations, Wales developed their strength in depth with many of their key players out of action and since then Sam Warburton announced his retirement from the sport. Warren Gatland’s side need to ensure that their combinations of youth and experience mix well against world-class opposition ahead of the World Cup.
Will New Zealand, South Africa or Australia come out on top?
In this year’s Autumn internationals England, Scotland and Wales will play South Africa, Australia will face England and Wales while the All Blacks come up against England and Ireland. England have already played South Africa this year when they lost their Test series 2-1 but since then the Springboks finished second in the Rugby Championship beating New Zealand in the process.
The All Blacks are the dominant force in Rugby Union but in the last two World Cups the champions have timed their effort so that they are at the peak in those championships. In the last four years, they have lost to Ireland in Chicago and more recently to South Africa – although they avoided a second loss to South Africa in the Rugby Championship by the skin of their teeth. They have not been playing their best rugby but they are still in a good place and will provide a challenge to England and Ireland.
Australia’s form coming into the matches against England and Wales is worse than that of England. The Wallabies have won only three out of their last ten Tests. At the 2015 World Cup, Australia made the final having made their way out of their pool which included England and Wales, and despite not being in the best form heading into the competition. The underdog tag potentially suits the side better and as they are currently seventh in the World Rankings, the home nations should be able to notch a victory against Australia.
This year’s Autumn Internationals begin with Wales vs. Scotland at 14.45 GMT, England vs. South Africa at 15.00 GMT and Ireland vs. Italy at 20.00 GMT on Saturday 3rd November.
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