What to watch out for in Round 4 the Autumn Nations Series

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The Autumn Nations Series will come to a dramatic conclusion as England face South Africa and Wales take on Australia in Round 4.

The Autumn Nations Series will come to a dramatic conclusion as England face South Africa and Wales take on Australia in Round 4.

And with 2023 comes a fresh start in the Guinness Six Nations, which is now just 70 days away.

With that in mind, let’s look at what fans should be watching out for when two giants of the Guinness Six Nations take on two of the southern hemisphere’s finest.

Can Mako still go?

Mako Vunipola was an unstoppable force after coming off the bench in England’s 25-25 draw with New Zealand in Round 3.

The loosehead prop made several devastating carries through midfield, sucking in defenders and creating the space that allowed Eddie Jones’ side to produce some delightful attacking patterns.

The 31-year-old made 50 metres across seven carries in 25 minutes against the All Blacks, the fifth-most ground gained by any England player in the entire game.

Vunipola is set to start against the Springboks, meaning he will come up against six of the world’s best front row forwards.

It will be a big test for Vunipola, who will be eager to cement his place in Jones’ starting XV for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Tough Test for Tommy

Tommy Freeman has been named in Eddie Jones’ starting side to take on the Springboks.

The Northampton Saints winger has come in for Jack Nowell after recovering from a foot injury.

The 21-year-old impressed during last summer’s tour of Australia, making his international debut in the second Test and helping Jones’s side to a crucial win.

Freeman could be crucial to England’s game plan against the Springboks.

The versatile back stands at 6ft 2in and is equally comfortable at full-back as he is on the wing.

South Africa may have to think twice before testing England’s resolve under the high ball.

England look for a repeat of 2021 result

England came out on top the last time these two sides faced off, beating the Springboks 27-26 at Twickenham.

It was the perfect way for England to end 2021, and they will be hoping to end 2022 in the same way.

The victory was also a nice slice of revenge after England’s loss in the 2019 World Cup final.

And with a huge 2023 ahead for Eddie Jones’ side, and after a rollercoaster of an Autumn Nations Series, a win would be a big indicator that England are heading in the right direction.

Hawkins set to start

Joe Hawkins will make his Wales debut against Australia.

The Ospreys centre has been rewarded for his fine performances in training, taking the place of injured back Owen Watkin.

The 20-year-old is a surprise inclusion despite impressing with Wales’ Under-20s in recent years.

However, Hawkins is a versatile, energetic runner that offers a threat both as a ball carrier and as a goal kicker.

Wales fans should keep an eye on this young prospect when Wales take on Australia.

Halfpenny’s return

Wayne Pivac has gone for a blend of youth and experience for the clash with the Wallabies.

The game will see Leigh Halfpenny make his first start for Wales since the summer of 2021, having featured as a replacement last weekend.

The full-back will offer some much-needed experience to this Wales back line, coming into the side for Louis Rees-Zammit.

Australia look likely to test Wales’ back three with hanging kicks at Principality Stadium, so Halfpenny could prove as important in defence as he usually does in attack.

Chance for Wales to respond

Wales fell to their first-ever defeat against Georgia in Round 3 of the Autumn Nations Series.

The 13-12 defeat was Wales’ second defeat of the Autumn Nations Series, having also lost 55-23 against the All Blacks.

With the Guinness Six Nations just around the corner and the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the horizon, Wales will want to bring this run of form to an end as quickly as possible.

Australia have struggled this autumn, winning just one of their four games so far, so this could be a good chance for Wales to end a tough year on a high.