England and France all set for Autumn Nations Cup Final

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This weekend brings the last action of 2020 for Guinness Six Nations sides as they each take part in Autumn Nations Cup Finals weekend.

This weekend brings the last action of 2020 for Guinness Six Nations sides as they each take part in Autumn Nations Cup Finals weekend.

In a strange twist of fate, the fixture list – decided by the respective finishing positions of the sides in the group stage – has thrown up the same three clashes which kicked off the calendar year in Round 1 of the Guinness Six Nations.

Wales, Ireland and France were victorious back in February – will they repeat the feat this weekend or can Italy, Scotland and England gain revenge?

Eddie Jones’ men will certainly hope so as they look to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet, having lifted the Guinness Six Nations title earlier in the autumn.

To do so they will have to overcome a French side who will be determined to cap an excellent year on a high despite missing some of their big stars.

Elsewhere, Ireland and Scotland battle it out for third place, while Wales and Italy are each looking for morale-boosting wins as they meet in Llanelli.

Here’s what lies in store over another rugby-filled weekend…


Georgia v Fiji – 12:00 (GMT)

The first Autumn Nations Cup action of Finals weekend involves the two non-Guinness Six Nations sides, as Georgia meet Fiji at BT Murrayfield.

Los Lelos have steadily improved over the course of the competition and scored their first points of the tournament in a 23-10 defeat against Ireland last weekend.

They will hope to end in style against a Fijian side who are simply looking forward to the chance to play, having seen all three group matches cancelled due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the squad.

Former Scotland coach Vern Cotter has selected an exciting team and the Flying Fijians will aim to live up to their nickname in Edinburgh.

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze, Sandro Todua, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Lasha Jaiani, Kote Mikautadze, Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saghinadze, Tornike Jalaghonia

Replacements: Jaba Bregvadze, Guram Gogichashvili, Giorgi Kerdikoshvili, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Gela Aprasidze, Demur Tapladze, Davit Niniashvili

Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Levani Botia, Nemani Nadolo, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani; Peni Ravai, Samuel Matavesi, Mesake Doge, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanu, Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavala, Albert Tuisue

Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hetet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Simione Kuruvoli, Seru Vularika, Waisea Nayacalevu

Ireland v Scotland – 14:15 (GMT)

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has described Saturday’s third-placed play-off with Scotland as “a big building block” towards next year’s Guinness Six Nations.

Farrell’s first game in charge was the 2020 Guinness Six Nations opener in February, which his side won 19-12, and he has been boosted by the returns from injury of captain Johnny Sexton and centre Robbie Henshaw.

Conor Murray and Keith Earls are also part of an experienced back division, while Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan will make his international debut should he come off the bench at the Aviva Stadium.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has handed an international debut to Jaco van der Walt, who replaces Duncan Weir at fly-half having recently completed his residency qualification period.

He will hope to match the impact of his clubmate Duhan van der Merwe, who has made an impressive start to life in international rugby, while Duncan Taylor is set for his first Scotland appearance since last year’s World Cup.

Scotland have not won in Dublin since the Guinness Six Nations clash in 2010, when Dan Parks’ late penalty secured a 23-20 success at Croke Park. Having broken their Wales duck earlier in the autumn – winning there for the first time since 2002 – they will hope to do likewise in Ireland this weekend.

Ireland: Jacob Stockdale; Hugo Keenan, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Eric O’Sullivan, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Chris Farrell.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Willem Nel, Sam Skinner, Blair Cowan, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Huw Jones, Sean Maitland.

Wales v Italy – 16:45 (GMT)

Wayne Pivac’s first competitive game in charge of Wales was the 42-0 triumph against Italy in Round 1 of this year’s Guinness Six Nations and he could do with a similarly convincing display tomorrow to bring a successful end a mixed year.

Wales have won just once since that clash in February – an 18-0 victory against Georgia earlier in the Autumn Nations Cup – and have made nine changes to the side beaten by England last weekend.

George North returns to line up at outside centre while Kieran Hardy and Callum Sheedy make up an all-changed half-back pairing. Josh Adams, who scored a hat-trick when these sides last met, starts on the wing.

Italy have not recorded an on-pitch victory so far in 2020, with their sole success coming as a result of a walkover against Fiji in Round 2 of the Autumn Nations Cup.

Franco Smith has given a first international start to 19-year-old scrum-half Stephen Varney, who was born in Carmarthen. Benetton wing Monty Ioane – nephew of Australia legend Digby – has also been included in the starting XV and will make his Italy debut in Llanelli.

Smith has urged his side to “show our worth” this weekend and victory would provide a real pick-me-up ahead of next year’s Guinness Six Nations.

Wales: Liam Williams; Josh Adams; George North; Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit; Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), James Botham, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Gareth Davies, Ioan Lloyd, Jonah Holmes.

Italy: Jacopo Trulla; Luca Sperandio, Marco Zanon, Carlo Canna, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Luca Bigi (capt), Giosue Zilocchi, Marco Lazzaroni, Niccolo Cannone, Maxime Mbanda, Johan Meyer, Braam Steyn.

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Simone Ferrari, Peitro Ceccarelli, Cristan Stoian, Michele Lamaro, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan, Federico Mori.


England v France – 14:00 (GMT)

The weekend’s action concludes on Sunday with the eagerly-anticipated Final between England and France at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones believes his England side have learned from their build-up to their World Cup final defeat against South Africa last year and thinks his troops will be “at their absolute best” as they look to complete an autumn double.

He has made just one change to the team that beat Wales in their final group game, with Anthony Watson replacing his Bath teammate Jonathan Joseph on the wing.

France are unable to call on any of the starting XV from February’s Guinness Six Nations win over England due to an arrangement between the national team and Top 14 clubs regarding player availability.

The strength in depth within French rugby means there is still no shortage of talent for Fabien Galthie and the likes of Gabin Villiere and Matthieu Jalibert will look to show what they can do on the big stage.

Scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud captains the side on his first international start and will hope to lead Les Bleus to a first Twickenham triumph since a World Cup warm-up match in 2007.

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins, Joe Marchant

France: Brice Dulin, Alivereti Raka, Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Couilloud (capt); Hassane Kolingar, Pierre Bourgarit, Dorian Aldegheri, Killian Geraci, Baptiste Pesenti, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Selevasio Tolofua

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Rodrigue Neti, Uini Atonio, Guillaume Ducat, Sekou Macalou, Sebastien Bezy, Louis Carbonel, Jean Pascal Barraque