What to watch out for in Round 3 of the Autumn Nations Series

England’s Owen Farrell 13/11/2021
The Autumn Nations Series is almost at an end, with four of the six nations in Rugby’s Greatest Championship playing their last games before the new year.

The Autumn Nations Series is almost at an end, with four of the six nations in Rugby’s Greatest Championship playing their last games before the new year.

And with 2023 comes a fresh start in the Guinness Six Nations, now just 77 days away.

So all eyes will be on how the six sides fare at their home grounds, with plenty of intrigue and unpredictability promised in every fixture.

England set for All Blacks litmus test

Eddie Jones’ England were probably more satisfied and relieved than thrilled and elated to overcome Japan 52-13 last Saturday with their loss to Argentina still fresh in the memory.

But both games were mere appetisers to the hefty main course being served up this weekend.

The arrival of the All Blacks represents a huge test for this England side and the result will undoubtedly colour the two previous matches at HQ.

A loss to New Zealand and the signs were there for all to see against Argentina, while the win over the Brave Blossoms was nothing more than papering over cracks.

But a victory on Saturday would tell the story of a team gradually gelling and steadily improving over three weeks.

It would also imbue Jones’ men with the belief that they could get a similar result over South Africa, but England dare not look that far ahead.

Barring injury, Owen Farrell will become part of a highly exclusive club this weekend, joining Ben Youngs and Jason Leonard as an England centurion.

Manu Tuilagi is back in the starting XV, while Brodie Retallick returns from suspension to match Farrell’s feat of 100 Test Caps.

Italy target unbeaten Autumn Nations Series against South Africa

While Italy have defied expectations to win their first two Autumn Nations Series matches against Samoa and Australia, world champions South Africa have suffered a pair of defeats.

Italy’s hero in the stunning 22-21 victory over Wales in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, Ange Capuozzo put in another sparkling performance last weekend.

The dramatic 28-27 win in Florence was the Azzurri’s first win over the Wallabies in 19 attempts and gives them real hope they can replicate their performance from 2016.

The birthplace of the Renaissance was the setting for that historic 20-18 victory too, Italy’s first over the Springboks.

The Italians certainly seem reborn under Kieran Crowley in 2022 and another shock result would be the perfect end to a breakthrough year.

Ireland hope to round off 2022 with Wallabies win

Andy Farrell’s Ireland have also avoided defeat in this year’s Autumn Nations Series, passing tests against South Africa and Fiji.

But the two victories were not without their concerns so a strong performance against Australia is required to underline their world number one status.

Farrell made wholesale changes for the game against the Flying Fijians and has predictably strengthened the starting XV that won 35-17.

Captain Johnny Sexton is back, as is Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, Josh van der Flier, Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter among others.

Dave Rennie has followed suit, with ten changes of his own, after two heart-wrenching one-point defeats to France and Italy.

Scotland challenge Argentina after summer Series loss

Scotland are looking to set the record straight after losing their summer Series in Argentina 2-1.

New Zealand needed two late tries to defeat Gregor Townsend’s men last weekend and a one-point loss to Australia at the end of October contained plenty of positive takeaways.

Finn Russell was not involved for the tour to Argentina, and was brought back for the All Blacks match last Saturday.

The Racing 92 fly-half keeps his place for this Saturday while former Wallaby Jack Dempsey makes his Scotland debut at No.8.

France one win away from unbeaten calendar year

The last Tier One nation yet to lose a game in 2022, France need to overturn Japan for the third time in five months to complete a full calendar year without a defeat.

And Charles Ollivon will lead Les Bleus out as captain for their final Autumn Nations Series match, with Antoine Dupont suspended from last weekend’s win over South Africa.

Japan head to Toulouse with mixed performances behind them, having given New Zealand a scare in Tokyo before losing by a 39-point margin at Twickenham last time out.

But Fabien Galthié is taking no chances with his team selection, with just three changes from the 30-26 victory over the Springboks.

All three are enforced with Reda Wardi and Romain Taofifenua replacing the injured Cyril Baille and Thibaud Flament respectively, while Maxime Lucu steps in for Dupont.

Wales welcome Georgia with history on their side

Wales have never lost to Georgia but this will be just the fourth Test meeting between the sides since the first in 2017.

The Welsh failed to concede a single point in the last encounter, winning 18-0 at Parc y Scarlets but the Lelos have recorded a historic landmark since then.

Their 28-19 triumph over Italy in July was their first against a Tier One nation but Wayne Pivac’s squad are coming into this match after fine 20-13 win over Argentina last Saturday.

Josh Macleod is set for his international bow at No.8 and Rhys Priestland comes in for Gareth Anscombe at fly-half.