Order in the fresh beans, grab yourself a lunchtime nap on Saturday and fire up for the final week of the Autumn international Series slash Spring Tour. Here are the teams and storylines to watch.
Scotland vs. Japan, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, 12:00am Sunday AEDT
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price, Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Josh Bayliss.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Dylan Richardson, Matt Fagerson, George Horne , Blair Kinghorn.
Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Shogo Nakano, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Rikiya Matsuda, Yutaka Nagare, Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch, James Moore, Jack Cornelsen, Asaeli Ai Valu, Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar.
Replacements: Kosuke Horikoshi, Keita Inagaki, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Ben Gunter, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Yu Tamura, Dylan Riley.
Lock these in your calendar ????
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) October 27, 2021
Talking points: Scotland have responded to last week’s loss to South Africa by making seven changes for the team to face Japan, with five in the forward pack.
Jamie Bhatti earns his first Scotland start in two years ahead of Pierre Schoeman at loosehead with George Turner returning from injury at hooker. Lock Scott Cummings makes his first appearance while Hamish Watson, who played in the win over the Wallabies, also returns, while Josh Bayliss making his first start at No.8.
Sam Johnson replaces Matt Scott at inside centre with Darcy Graham in for Rufus McLean on the wing.
Japan, who defeated Scotland at the 2019 World Cup, have meanwhile made five changes to the team that beat Portugal 38-25 last weekend. Captain Pieter Labuschagne and lock James Moore both return from injury while in the backs Yutaka Nagare comes in at scrumhalf in place of Kaito Shigeno and Kotaro Matsushima starts on the wing.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 18, 2021
Prediction: Even with their changes Scotland will have too much firepower and a refreshed forward pack should pay dividends against a Japan team that has threatened little all spring and was hammered 60-5 by Ireland a fortnight ago.
Odds ( all via playup.com.au): Scotland $1.05, Japan $9.40
England vs. South Africa, Twickenham, London, 2.15am Sunday AEDT
England: Freddie Steward, Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs, Bevan Rodd, Jamie Blamire, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes (C), Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.
Replacements: Nic Dolly, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Sam Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt, Raffi Quirke, Max Malins.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 18, 2021
Talking points: England made two changes from the team that beat the Wallabies last Sunday with Joe Marchant coming into the side on the wing and Jamie Blamire starting at hooker.
With Owen Farrell and Jamie George injured, Courtney Lawes has been promoted to captain. Farrell’s absence allows Manu Tulagi to come from the wing to No.12 alongside flyhalf Marcus Smith.
nece allows The changes to the backline see Marcus Smith keeping his spot at fly-half with Manu Tuilagi at inside centre and Marchant out on the right wing.
Nic Dolly could make his England debut from the bench while Joe Marler makes the squad after missing the Wallabies match after testing positive for COVID-19.
South Africa made three changes to their side with No.10 Handre Pollard, Lood de Jager and halfback Cobus Reinach all starting.
“This is our biggest game of the season and the final game of the autumn campaign and we want to finish with a bang,” said England coach Eddie Jones.
The match, which will be played in the shadow of Rassie Erasmus’ 11-month ban, will pit England’s forward pack – dubbed the ‘Fight Club’ by forwards coach Matt Proudfoot – against the Boks’ ‘Bomb Squad’.
Proudfoot was part of the Boks squad that beat England in the 2019 World Cup final. He says the untimely absence of George and Ellis Genge can be overcome if their replacements have the right mindset and fully embrace the battle.
Prediction: England weren’t at their best last week as Australia battled to the end despite ill-discipline and 18 penalties conceded. The Boks were surprise losers to Australia down under but have responded magnificently and are proving relentless foes – giving them a slender edge for me.
“If you are taking on a heavyweight contest and you are fighting against George Foreman who can whack and whack and whack, you have to do something a bit different,” said Jones this week. “We have got four days to come up with something a little bit different. And we will.”
Odds: South Africa $1.78, England $2.02.
Wales vs. Australia, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, 4.30am Sunday AEDT
Wales: Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ellis Jenkins (captain), Seb Davies, Adam Beard, Tomas Francis, Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Ben Carter, Christ Tshiunza, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Johnny McNicholl.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Andrew Kellaway, Len Iktiau, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, James O’Connor, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Rob Leota, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Taniela Tupou, Tolu Latu, James Slipper.
Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Will Skelton, Lachlan Swinton, Tate McDermott, Lalakai Foketi, Tom Wright.
Talking points: Australia have to make do without talismanic captain Michael Hooper, with James Slipper taking charge.
Tighthead props Taniela Tupou and Allan Alaalatoa return after concussions against Scotland. Tolu Latu has been brought in at hooker to add presence on the ball, while Pete Samu gets a rare start in place of Hooper at 7, not a position he has played much of in recent seasons.
Filipo Daugunu is back after breaking an arm a minute into the third Test against France while Lalakai Foketi will get his chance to make his Wallabies debut off the bench.
????️ Australia will want to finish their tour on a high note as we’d like to finish our campaign on a high note…..
Wayne Pivac on the Autumn Nations Series finale after naming side to face @wallabies
— Welsh Rugby Union ???? (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 18, 2021
Wales have a number of regular starters sidelined, including forwards Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty. Hooker Ryan Elias is the only forward who featured against Fiji last week.
Seb Davies gets a first start of the campaign as he partners Adam Beard at lock, with captain Ellis Jenkins and Taine Basham on the flank and Aaron Wainwright back at number eight.
Prediction: Neither side has impressed this spring and both have been hard hit by injuries. It’s the end of a tough year for Australia with a lot at stake in terms of momentum for Dave Rennie’s Australians, and the desire to avoid a historical low – a loss would mean the first winless European tour in 45 years for the Wallabies.
When it was put to Rennie in Cardiff on Thursday that both sides, particularly the Welsh, would be desperate to win, he responded:: “Yes, particularly the Australians.
“I understand that (desperation) after a couple of losses and finding their way past Fiji at the weekend – but we’re pretty desperate as well.
“We haven’t performed as well as we’ve needed to against Scotland and England, and we’re keen to make up for it.”
Rennie has been hammering home the need for better discipline this week after the sloppy effort against England. If the players can, finally, absorb his message and avoid dumb penalties and yellow cards, they should end the tour on a high.
Odds: Wales $1.76, Australia $2.06.
France vs. New Zealand, Stade de France, Paris, 6.00am Sunday AEDT
France: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Gregory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Peato Mauvaka, Cyril Baille Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Matthieu Jalibert.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Akira Ioane, Samuel Whitelock (captain), Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Joe Moody
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, David Havili.
Talking points: All Blacks coach Ian Foster, under increasing pressure after the 29-20 loss to Ireland, has made seven changes, including the enforced replacement of Richie Mo’unga for Beauden Barrett.
Barrett was injured in the Dublin loss. Aaron Smith, who was flown over especially for this game, is at halfback with Quinn Tupaea promoted to the No.12 jersey to join Rieko Ioane in midfield.
George Bridge and Will Jordan are on the wings, and are part of a back three with fullback Jordie Barrett.
The All Blacks were outplayed by Ireland and forced to make 238 tackles during a bruising encounter. Dane Coles and Sam Cane are back in the starting pack as the tourists – who have played 12 Tests on the road in 10 weeks fight fatigue with the season finish line so close.
Romain Ntamack has been restored to the fly-half position for France to renew his partnership with captain Antoine Dupont.
Ntamack played at inside centre in the wins over Argentina and Georgia, but Matthieu Jalibert has dropped to the bench.
Jonathan Danty takes Ntamack’s place among the centres, where he will partner Gael Fickou, while the back three is made up of wings Gabin Villiere and Damian Penaud, with Melvyn Jaminet at fullback.
Francois Cros comes into the loose forwards in the place of Sekou Makalou, with Anthony Jelonch switching sides of the scrum from the number six to seven jersey and Gregory Alldritt at the back of the scrum.
Paul Willemse is recalled at lock to partner Cameron Woki, while the front row is made up of props Uini Atonio and Cyril Baille, and hooker Peato Mauvaka.
Prediction: How hard are the New Zealanders prepared to fight for their embattled coach, and each other? Or more to the point, how much is left in the tank? Playing France in Paris always shaped as the biggest test of their character and durability.
“I wouldn’t call it a slog, I would call it the longest tour I’ve ever done,” Foster said. “There’s no doubt everyone is aware we’re going home soon but getting that mindset and mentality to overcome those sorts of thoughts and focus on this week has been key for us.
“We’ve gone down the path of making a few changes we think are going to maximise the energy in this group. We’ve had some players miss out on this particular team who have been massive contributors through this campaign but we really believe the team needs an injection of freshness for this challenge.
“The team looked a bit off the mark last week and bringing in some freshness is exactly what we need. We’ve seen that injection of mental freshness come through this week.”
Never write off the All Blacks but a French upset would not be a shock.
Odds: New Zealand $1.41, France $2.90.
Ireland vs. Argentina, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 1.15AM AEDT
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Robert Baloucoune, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Joey Carbery, Conor Murray, Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Craig Casey, Harry Byrne, Keith Earls.
Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Carreras, Tomas Cubelli, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Santiago Grondona, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya, Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Ignacio Calles, Eduardo Bello, Lucas Paulos, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nicolas Sanchez, Facundo Cordero.
Talking points: TBC
James Ryan will captain Ireland while scrumhalf Jamison Gibson Park has been ruled out by injury.
Ryan takes over from the injured Johnny Sexton, who will be out for between four to six weeks after twisting both a knee and an ankle in the 29-20 win over New Zealand in Dublin last weekend.
Coach Andy Farrell expects Robbie Henshaw to seamlessly slot back into Ireland’s team at centre despite not playing since the Lions tour of South Africa.
Henshaw is one of four changes to Farrell’s starting XV following last weekend’s momentous win over New Zealand, with Conor Murray and Joey Carbery selected as the half-back pairing and Robert Baloucoune named on the right flank.
Argentina have handed loose forward Santiago Grondona his first start in almost a year, included youthful winger Lucio Cinti and brought back lock Guido Petti after injury in three changes to the starting line-up.
Los Pumas have chosen to go with as strong a selection as possible against an Irish team that beat New Zealand’s All Blacks last weekend.
Coach Mario Ledesma shuffled the back row with Grondona starting, Marcos Kremer moving from lock to flank and Pablo Matera playing number eight.
Grondona came off the bench in last week’s 37-16 victory over Italy to make his first Test appearance since last December. Cinti is the only change in the back line, replacing Santiago Cordero, whose younger brother Facundo is on the bench for the first time and in line for his first cap.
Odds: Ireland $1.16, Argentina $5.20