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UPDATED: Ultimate guide to Autumn Series week 2 - Teams, talking points and predictions for all six games

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5th November, 2021
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UPDATED: Australian fans savoured a Rugby Championship festival over the past two months and now it’s time for the northern hemisphere to swing into party mode.

Although there were two matches played last weekend, the Autumn Series, or Spring tour to us down under, goes into overdrive with six matches on Sunday and Monday (AEDT).

Here is a guide to every game, which will all be available to stream on Stan Sports and on BeIN via Kayo.

And check back for updates on Saturday as the Scotland and Australia teams are named.

Ireland vs. Japan, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 12:00AM Sunday AEDT

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson Park, Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.

Japan: Kotaro Matsushima, Dylan Riley, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare, Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne (captain), Ben Gunter, James Moore, Jack Cornelsen, Koo Ji-won, Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki
Replacements: Yusuke Niwai, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryohei Yamanaka.


Talking points: Ireland No.10 Johnny Sexton will become the seventh Ireland player to reach 100 Test caps, having battled back from head injuries to take his place as captain.

Jonny Sexton

Jonathan Sexton (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Sexton hasn’t played since Ireland beat England in the Six Nations back in the spring. He missed the summer series wins over the USA and Japan. Ireland are likey to give a debut to hooker Dan Sheehan.

French-based Kotaro Matsushima will start at fullback for Japan while Yu Tamura takes over the No.10 jersey. Matsushima missed last month’s 32-23 loss to Australia due to club commitments with Clermont and is one of three changes to the starting lineup from that game.

He replaces Semisi Masirewa, while Dylan Riley takes over from Lomano Lemeki on the wing and Tamura is preferred to Rikiya Matsuda at flyhalf.

Japan coach Jamie Joseph said he expects the big occasion for Sexton to make it a “more intriguing” challenge.

“He’s been a big part of the Irish success in recent years, certainly a big part when they beat the All Blacks (in 2016 and 2018) – a really experienced player,” Joseph said of Sexton.

“It will be a great occasion for our boys to be able to celebrate that. We’ve talked about it this week.


“We know it’s going to create a lot of emotion with the Irish boys, we know they’re going to want to play for him and I think that makes the challenge for us more intriguing.

“But we’ve got a certain way we play the game and nothing’s really going to change for us.

“It’s just going to be a big occasion and I think that’s going to be good experience for our boys.”

Prediction: Ireland beat Japan without their British and Irish Lions players earlier this year and should have too much for the visitors, although Matsushima brings attacking flair and Japan enjoyed a shock win over their hosts at the 2019 World Cup.

Italy vs. New Zealand, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 12:00am Sunday AEDT

Italy: Matteo Minozzi, Federico Mori, Juan Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Montanna Ioanne, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney, Renato Giammarioli, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, David Susi, Marco Fuser, Marco Riccioni, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Danilo Fishcetti.
Replacements: Luca Bigi, Ivan Nemer, Pietro Ceccarelli, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Abraham Steyn, Callum Braley, Carlo Cana.

New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Brad Weber, Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (captain), Luke Jacobson, Josh Lord, Tupou Vaa’i, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, George Bower.
Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Ethan de Groot, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, David Havili, Jordie Barrett.

Talking points: Richie Mo’unga starts at flyhalf as Ian Foster has picked a largely second string side.

Mo’unga’s selection is a clear indication that Beauden Barrett is now the outright first choice at No.10. Winger Sevu Reece, scrumhalf Brad Weber, lock Tupou Vaa’i and prop Tyrel Lomax have come into the team that thrashed Wales 54-16 last weekend.

Richie Mo'unga had a dominant performance in Bledisloe 1

(Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

Sam Cane leads a team which features two locks – Vaa’i and Josh Lord – who are under 21.

“Tupou is a quality footballer and we have seen more signs of that in the last two weeks, while Josh on his first tour has learnt things quickly and has been really clear-headed at training,” Foster said.

Italy coach Kieran Crowley has opted for experience in his debut game with recalls after three years for lock Marco Fuser, two years for No. 8 Renato Giammarioli, and after one year for fullback Matteo Minozzi. The replacements include uncapped Argentina-born prop Ivan Nemer from Benetton.

“On Saturday the focus will be on our performance as we continue along the path aimed at creating a very specific team identity,” Crowley said.

It is six years since Italy won a Six Nations match and the All Blacks won their last meeting in Rome 66-3.

“They have a new coach in Kieran Crowley so they’ll have a different philosophy and I like that for us, because it means we will go into the match with a bit of an edge,” said Foster.

“While Italy may not have been happy with their recent Six Nations results, things generally shift when a new regime comes in, so we’re expecting them to play with a lot of passion in front of their home crowd.


“We are ready and prepared for this weekend. We know it’s a really big game for us when it comes to improving our skill sets and decision-making as we’ve made that a bit of a focus this week. The team that’s been selected has been given the job of ensuring we grow in those areas from our game against Wales.

“With this tour we have an objective of growing the opportunities and the depth in this group. We’ve been driving our performances upwards because the competition and the energy in the squad has been huge. This week is about this particular group putting another marker down.”

Prediction: It might be weakened match day selection but there is no team in world rugby with the depth Foster has at his disposal. Mo’unga will be fired up in his ongoing tussle with Barrett and eager to satke claims for the bigger battles to come against Ireland and France. This shapes as another landslide win for the All Blacks who have hammered USA and Wales since their loss to the Springboks.

England vs. Tonga, Twickenham, London, 2.15am Sunday AEDT

England: Freddie Steward, Adam Radwan, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.
Replacements: Jamie Blamire, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, George Furbank.

Tonga: Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna, Halaleva Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Lopeti Timani, Mateaki Kafatolu, Sione Vailanu, Sonatane Takulua, Kurt Morath, Solomone Kata, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Mailetoa Hingano, Walter Fifita, Telusa Veainu.
Replacements: Siua Maile, Loni Uhila, Ma’afu Fia, Setofano Funaki, Onehunga Havili, Leon Fukofuka, James Faiva, Viliami Fine.

Talking points: England captain Owen Farrell tested positive before the game and was being monitored. Although not ruled out by Saturday morning AEDT, it seems Farrell is unlikely to line up for his 100th Test, while next week’s match against the Wallabies must also be a doubt.

Eddie Jones has to decide if he will promote Marcus Smith from the bench despite the youngster’s lingering leg injury.


“Marcus hasn’t been able to train,” Jones said before Farrell’s positive test. “He just did some light training [on Thursday] and we anticipate he’s going to be able to train fully [on Friday]. Therefore we decided to start with Owen and Marcus will finish for us.

“We’ll get him to sweat a little bit [on Friday] and he’ll be ready to go. When you don’t train it’s hard to run the team around the paddock but we do believe he’s fit. He’s passed all the stages they have now but what he hasn’t been able to do is work the combinations on the field so we felt it was better for him to come off the bench than to start.”

Inside centre Manu Tuilagi makes his first appearance for England since March 2020, after coming back from injury, with Henry Slade at outside centre.

Ben Youngs will win his 110th cap at scrumhalf, with uncapped Alex Mitchell on the bench. Winger Adam Radwan – a real excitement machine – will win his second cap, with Freddie Steward winning his third at fullback.

Jones will be glad to have his team on the park. He’s faced a campaign in the UK newspaper The Times that has targeted his coaching methods.

Tonga, meanwhile, have rung the changes after their 60-14 loss to Scotland.

Former Wallabies flanker Lopeti Timani is one of three new caps and there are eight changes to the starting XV from the Scotland game in Toutai Kefu’s lineup.

Former New Zealand and Tonga rugby league international Solomone Kata is a newcomer on the wing while ex-Australia Sevens player Afusipa Taumoepeau starts at No.12.

Prediction: Tonga should put up tougher competition than they managed against Scotland but will find it hard to make an impact on England, as they tune up for a bigger Test against Australia.

Wales vs. South Africa, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, 4.30am Sunday AEDT
Wales: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ellis Jenkins, Adam Beard, Will Rowlands, Tomas Francis, Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre.
Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, WillGriff John, Ben Carter, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Liam Williams.

South Africa: Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Herschel Jantjies, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Cobus Reinach, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn

Talking points: South Africa fullback Damian Willemse is back as one of four Springboks changes to the 23 for the match against Wales.

Jesse Kriel replaces wing Sbu Nkosi, who had his journey to Europe from South Africa delayed by passport and visa issues, while Herschel Jantjies is at scrumhalf with Faf de Klerk unavailable through injury.

Wales loose-forward Ellis Jenkins will play his first international Test in three years as one of six changes made by coach Wayne Pivac.

He comes in to replace Ross Moriarty, who like skipper Alun Wyn Jones was injured in the 54-16 mauling by New Zealand last weekend and is a massive blow – out for the rest of the autumn series including the Test against Australia.

Wales do welcome back Dan Biggar and Louis Rees-Zammit, while No. 7 Taine Basham was impressive against NZ.

South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will give up his water bottle and sit in the coach’s box as he awaits a World Rugby verdict on his ref rant video.

“Wales is going to be a nice challenge for us, especially if you look at our record here in Cardiff,” said coach Jaques Nienaber.

“It is just a fortress for them, the atmosphere in the stadium is tremendous and you grow an extra arm and a leg.”

Prediction: Wales were understrength and underwhelming in losing to the All Blacks last week. That result continued 68 years without a win over New Zealand but, in contrast, Wales have a good recent record over South Africa, beating the Boks in the past four games in Cardiff. A fifth looks unlikely with South Africa rested and off the back of a morale boosting defeat of the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship.

France vs. Argentina, Stade de France, Paris, 7.30am Sunday AEDT

France: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (capt.), Anthony Jelonch, Cameron Woki, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Thibaud Flament, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Gregory Alldritt, Sekou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Jonathan Danty.

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Matías Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Mateo Carreras, Santiago Carreras, Tomas Cubelli, Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya (captain), Thomas Gallo
Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Rodrigo Martinez, Santiago Medrano, Lucas Paulos, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nicolas Sanchez, Lucio Cinti.

Talking points: France have handed a debut to Toulouse lock Thibaud Flament as coach Fabien Galthie made 11 changes from their last outing, against Australia.

That team that lost 2-1 to the Wallabies was below strength and only loose forwards Cameron Woki and Anthony Jelonch and backs Damian Penaud and Melvyn Jaminet remain from the team that lost 33-30 in Brisbane in July.

Antoine Dupont returns as captain while another of the French game’s big stars, Romain Ntamack, moves to centre.

Mario Ledesma’s Argentina team has eight changes from their final match of the Rugby Championship – the 32-17 to Australia in Townsville last month.

Pablo Matera is one returnee after his infamous day trip to Byron Bay which saw him ruled out of the RC clash.

Prediction: France will be eager to start building momentum as they prepare to hist the 2023 World Cup, and are re-emerging as a real force in European rugby. The combination of Antoine Dupont, Matthieu Jalibert and Romain Ntamack should give the hosts enough quality to overcome a battle-weary outfit that are without a win in six Tests having dropped all of their Rugby Championship encounters.

Scotland vs. Australia, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, 1.15am Monday AEDT

Scotland: Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe, Sam Johnson, Chris Harris, Darcy Graham, Stuart Hogg.
Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Jamie Bhatti, Oli Kebble, Jamie Hodgson, Josh Bayliss, George Horne, Adam Hastings, Kyle Steyn.

Australia: James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Michael Hooper (c), Rob Valetini, Nic White, James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Len Ikitau, Tom Wright, Andrew Kellaway
Replacements: Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Will Skelton, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Kurtley Beale, Izaia Perese

Talking points: Australia has given James O’Connor the keys at No.10 with Andrew Kellaway at No.15 as Dave Rennie’s team can put the club vs country row involving three of his players behind them.
Kurtley Beale is back in the fold and will provide utility value off the bench, while fellow Frenc-based players Will Skelton and Rory Arnold win recalls.
Former Brisbane Broncos player and current Waratah Izaia Perese can make his debut off the bench.
Scotland scored ten tries last week against Tonga but will be stronger again with Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Chris Harris now available.

Townsend selected an experienced side that features only one change in the starting XV from the team that ended the 2021 Six Nations with victory in France in March.
The Edinburgh loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman – who made his debut in the 60-14 win over Tonga last weekend – earns his second cap after injury ruled out Rory Sutherland, the only member of the team from Paris who does not feature this time.

Townsend has selected all the available Scottish British & Irish Lions contingent, which means Hogg returns to captain the team at fullback with Ali Price and Finn Russell at 9 and 10.

“While there were several positives to take from the win against Tonga we face a very different opponent in Australia this week,” said Townsend.

“They are coming into this fixture clearly off the back of good results and full of confidence, so we will need to bring focus, accuracy and aggression for the full 80 minutes.”

Prediction: The last time the teams met in the UK, in 2017, the Wallabies were blown away in a record defeat. Of course plenty has changed and the Wallabies are finding their way across the line in tight battles. Rennie’s team could have the edge having come out of a tough domestic campaign.

Who are you tippingthis weekend?