Guinness Six Nations sides primed for Autumn Nations Cup

The opening weekend of the hotly-anticipated Autumn Nations Cup sees us spoilt for choice with three mouth-watering clashes taking place across Friday and Saturday.

The opening weekend of the hotly-anticipated Autumn Nations Cup sees us spoilt for choice with three mouth-watering clashes taking place across Friday and Saturday.

On Friday night, Ireland host Wales, with the 131st meeting between the two sides kicking off the tournament with a bang.

Then on Saturday we’re treated to a pair of matches, as Scotland travel to Italy, before newly crowned Guinness Six Nations champions England host Georgia for the first time ever at Twickenham Stadium.

France and Fiji were scheduled to conclude the opening round of games on Sunday, but the fixture had to be cancelled after several members of the Fijian team returned positive coronavirus tests.


Ireland v Wales 19:00 GMT

Wayne Pivac’s Wales travel to Dublin looking to avenge their 24-14 defeat in February, in the first of the Group A fixtures.

Leinster’s James Lowe is set to make his debut in the famous green jersey as Ireland look to capture a fourth successive win over the 2019 Grand Slam champions.

Wales, who are winless in five matches, will look for Alun Wyn Jones’ leadership in the Irish capital as the Ospreys second-rower wins his 150th Test cap.

Uncapped Callum Sheedy could make his debut with the Bristol Bears fly-half named on the replacements bench, with Justin Tipuric returning to the side after recovering from illness.

George North could become the youngest player to reach 100 international caps if he comes on, and the 28-year-old will be keen to add to the three tries he has already registered against Ireland.

Ireland: 15. Jacob Stockdale, 14. Hugo Keenan, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe, 10. Jonathan Sexton (C), 9. Jamison Gibson Park, 1.Cian Healy, 2. Ronan Kelleher, 3. Andrew Porter, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: 16. Dave Heffernan, 17. Ed Byrne, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Quinn Roux, 20. Will Connors, 21. Conor Murray, 22. Billy Burns, 23. Keith Earls

Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Liam Williams, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Owen Watkin, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Rhys Carre, 2. Ryan Elias, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Will Rowlands, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (C), 6. Shane Lewis-Hughes, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Wyn Jones, 18. Samson Lee, 19. Jake Ball, 20. Aaron Wainwright, 21. Lloyd Williams, 22. Callum Sheedy, 23. George North


Italy v Scotland 12:45 GMT

The standards have been set high for a buoyant Scotland side, as they look to build on the momentum that saw them edge Wales 14-10 at Parc y Scarlets last month.

Scotland triumphed 17-0 against Italy in the teams’ last meeting at the Stadio Olimpico in February, and last lost against the Azzurri at home in the 2015 Championship.

Flanker Hamish Watson believes Gregor Townsend’s side can win the Autumn Nations Cup, and victory in Florence would set them on their way in Group B.

He said: “This is a great squad of boys we have got, we are all very close, a tight knit group. We know how good we are as a group and we just have to prove things with results.”

Meanwhile, Italy continue their rebuild under Franco Smith as the South African coach hands out a first cap to Zebre’s Jacopo Trulla. Gloucester’s Stephen Varney could also make his debut from the bench.

Luca Bigi will lead the side out at Stadio Artemio Franchi, with Wasps’ in-form back Matteo Minozzi lining up at No.15.

Italy: 15. Matteo Minozzi, 14. Jacopo Trulla, 13. Marco Zanon, 12. Carlo Canna, 11. Mattia Bellini, 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Marcello Violi, 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Luca Bigi (C), 3. Giosuè Zilocchi, 4. Marco Lazzaroni, 5. Niccolò Cannone, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Braam Steyn, 8. Jake Polledri

Replacements: 16. Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17. Simone Ferrari, 18. Pietro Ceccarelli, 19. Johan Meyer, 20. Maxime Mbanda, 21. Stephen Varney, 22. Tommaso Allan, 23. Federico Mori

Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg (C), 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Duncan Weir, 9. Ali Price, 1. Rory Sutherland, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Jamie Ritchie, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Blade Thomson

Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. WP Nel, 19. Sam Skinner, 20. Nick Haining, 21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22. James Lang, 23. Blair Kinghorn

England v Georgia 15:00 GMT

Despite teasing the idea of starting nine forwards, Eddie Jones has deployed a conventional line-up for his side’s clash against the visiting Georgians in Group A.

Known for their strength and brute force up front, Georgia will be hoping to win the forwards battle as they look for their first ever win over England.

Therefore, it might come as no surprise Jones has named a big pack with Jack Willis set to make his debut at Twickenham, as he packs down with Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola in the back row.

Ollie Lawrence – who came off the bench for his debut in the Red Rose’s Guinness Six Nations win over Italy – gets a first Test start alongside Jonathan Joseph in midfield, as the Championship winners aim to extend their four-game winning run.

England: 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Jonathan Joseph, 13. Ollie Lawrence, 12. Henry Slade, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell (C), 9. Ben Youngs, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Charlie Ewels, 5. Joe Launchbury, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Jack Willis, 8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16. Tom Dunn, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Ben Earl, 20. Tom Curry, 21. Dan Robson, 22. Max Malins, 23. Joe Marchant

Georgia: 15. Lasha Khmaladze, 14. Akaki Tabutsadze, 13. Giorgi Kveseladze, 12. Merab Sharikadze (C), 11. Sandro Svanidze, 10. Tedo Abzhandadze, 9. Gela Aprasidze, 1. Mikheil Nariashvili, 2. Shalva Mamukashvili, 3. Beka Gigashvili, 4. Lasha Jaiani, 5. Grigor Kerdikoshvili, 6. Beka Saginadze, 7. Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 8. Beka Gorgadze

Replacements: 16. Jaba Bregvadze, 17. Guram Gogichashvili, 18. Lexo Kaulashvili, 19. Otar Giorgadze, 20. Tornike Jalagoni, 21. Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22. Deme Tapladze, 23. Sandro Todua