With the next chapter of England-Australia sporting rivalry and historic tests taking place between Wales and Georgia and Germany and USA, not to mention the latest RWC 2019 qualifier between Portugal and the Czech Republic, we're all set for another memorable jam-packed weekend of international rugby.
ENGLAND (2) v AUSTRALIA (3)
Jonny May celebrates his Premiership Player of the Month award for October with a return to the England wing. To accomodate him, Anthony Watson shifts to full-back as Mike Brown was not considered for selection due to the head knock he received in last weekend’s 21-9 win over Argentina. The only other change to the backline comes at inside centre where World Rugby Men's Player of the Year nominee Owen Farrell replaces Henry Slade. Joe Launchbury partners Courtney Lawes with George Kruis dropping out of the match-day 23, while Maro Itoje is set to make his first appearance since the Lions tour after being named on the bench.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has opted to go with the same XV that defeated Wales 29-21. Lopeti Timani is the sole addition to an extended bench with the replacements to be finalised on Friday.
- England have won 22 matches to Australia’s 25, with one draw, since rugby’s version of the Ashes first got underway in 1909
- Over the last four tests against Australia, England are averaging 36 points per game
- The Wallabies have scored 55 tries so far in 2017 and are on course to beat their all-time best in a calendar year of 64, set in 2003
- Courtney Lawes will win his 60th cap for England
- Stephen Moore will become the seventh most-capped player of all-time if he takes to the field for his 128th game in the Wallaby jersey
England could move to within 1.12 points of New Zealand if they win well and the All Blacks suffer a shock loss to Scotland in Edinburgh. Australia are safe in third no matter what the result. However, with a minimum of 1.52 points on offer, a green and gold victory would see Australia replace England in second place in the rankings.
SCOTLAND (6) v NEW ZEALAND (1)
The Scotland team to play New Zealand shows two changes from the team that started last Saturday’s 44-38 win against Samoa. The changes come in the forward pack, where prop Zander Fagerson and back-row Cornell du Preez have been promoted from the bench in place of injured pair WP Nel and Ryan Wilson. It will be du Preez’s first start for Scotland.
New Zealand’s match-day 23 features just two changes from the team which beat France 39-18 in Paris. Codie Taylor comes in at hooker for the injured Dane Coles, with Nathan Harris named on the bench, and Liam Squire comes onto the bench in the No.19 jersey.
- Scotland have never beaten New Zealand in 30 previous attempts, losing 28 and drawing twice
- New Zealand won 24-16 on their last visit to Murrayfield in November 2014
- New Zealand’s biggest win against Scotland was the 49-point margin achieved in Dunedin in 2000 (69-20)
- Scotland have never scored more than three tries in a game against New Zealand
- World Rugby Men's Player of the Year 2017 nominee Beauden Barrett has also scored 148 test points this year - just four shy of his 152 points he managed in 2016. No All Black has scored 150 points in consecutive years.
In the week where they celebrated eight years atop the World Rugby Rankings, New Zealand will pick up a quarter of a point if they win well, taking them to 94.07 points overall. By the close of play on Saturday, the All Blacks’ lead at the top of the rankings could be a shade over four points.
Victory for Scotland, worth as many as two and three-quarter rating points, would need to be combined with a heavy loss for Ireland at home to Fiji for them to climb into the world’s top four for the first time since the rankings began in October 2003. The Scots cannot fall any lower than current position of sixth.
IRELAND (4) v FIJI (9)
Rhys Ruddock reprises his June tour role as captain as coach Joe Schmidt makes wholesale changes for the visit of Fiji. Munster centre Chris Farrell wins his first cap, while winger Darren Sweetnam, hooker Rob Herring and prop Andrew Porter all make maiden starts.
Fiji coach John McKee can call upon powerhouse winger Nemani Nadolo as the Islanders look to find a response to last week’s 19-10 loss to Italy. In other changes, scrum-half Henry Seniloli comes into the side along with versatile La Rochelle flanker Levani Botia, who will start in the centre against Ireland just a few weeks after causing Ulster so many problems from the blindside.
The pack stays unchanged other than at blindside flanker where Dominiko Waqaniburuto replaces Semi Kunatani.
- All three previous meetings between the teams came in Dublin and ended in Irish wins, the last of them 41-6 in November 2009
- Ireland recorded their joint fourth highest score in a test match when they beat Fiji 64-17 in Dublin in 2002
An Irish victory comes without any points reward due to the large points differential between the sides. A loss combined with a South Africa win in France would see the Boks replace the Irish in fourth, however.
A record high of eighth is the prize on offer for Fiji if they beat Ireland and France draw or lose at home to South Africa. Seventh place is also within reach too, depending on the margin of victory and the outcome of Wales’ game against Georgia.
FRANCE (8) v SOUTH AFRICA (5)
The same XV go again for France as coach Guy Noves opts for continuity. On the bench there is one change, however, as Sebastien Taofifenua comes in for Raphael Chaume as prop cover this weekend.
Injury-plagued former World Rugby Junior Player of the Year Handré Pollard is in line to make his first start for South Africa since the Rugby World Cup 2015 bronze final against Argentina in London, in place of Elton Jantjies.
Prop Wilco Louw is handed his first test start as coach Alister Coetzee reacts to the record 38-3 loss to Ireland by making 10 changes.
- South Africa won this June’s series 3-0, extending their winning run over Les Bleus to five matches
- France have won 11 matches to South Africa’s 25 since the first meeting in 1913
- France have failed to score more than 20 points in their last six matches against the Springboks
- Dan du Preez will make his Springbok debut if he comes off the bench. Together with his twin brother, Jean-Luc, they would be the 33rd set of Springbok brothers, and only the second set of Springbok twins.
Victory would not be enough on its own to lift South Africa back into the world’s top four as the Springboks need Ireland to slip up too. A beaten France could drop one place, with Fiji overhauling them. A big win for France, however, would send them above Wales into seventh place.
"The new boys will play with a lot of passion and a lot of heart as they haven't played a lot of games for their country so that's a double edged sword"@GeorgianRugby coach Milton Haig is cautious on what to expect from Wales #WALvGEO pic.twitter.com/i437hGB7HB— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 15, 2017
WALES (7) v GEORGIA (12)
Dan Lydiate will captain Wales for a third time as he leads his country in their first-ever outing against Georgia at the Principality Stadium. Lydiate is one of 14 personnel changes from the loss to Australia last weekend with Liam Williams the sole survivor. Williams shifts from wing to full-back.
Last week’s 34-pont hero against Canada, Ioseb ‘Soso’ Matiashvili, retains the full-back jersey ahead of the Lelos’ most-capped player Merab Kvirikashvili in an unchanged Lelos starting line-up.
Wales will face Georgia again in Pool D at RWC 2019.
Wales cannot improve their position in victory due to the 7.57 points differential between the sides before any home advantage weighting it added. Conversely, a win by more than 15 points for Georgia combined with a loss for Argentina in Italy would see the Lelos break new ground and enter the world’s top 10 for the first time in their history.
ITALY (13) v ARGENTINA (10)
Italy have stuck with the same side that narrowly defeated Fiji last weekend for the visit of Argentina to Florence. However, there are two changes among the replacements with Federico Zani coming in for Marco Lazzaroni and Edoardo Gori being replaced by Tito Tebaldi.
Nicolas Sanchez is restored at fly-half for Los Pumas with Juan Martin Hernandez, the starting 10 against England, dropping to the bench. Matias Orlando is in for Matias Moroni at outside centre and Sebastian Cancelliere is rewarded for a lively debut off the bench last week with a place on the right wing. Joaquín Tuculet will become the 29th Puma to reach 50 caps.
In the pack, Juan Manuel Leguizamon replaces Tomas Lezana in the number eight jersey.
- Argentina have won the last six matches between the two dating back to June 2008
- In the overall head-to-head stats, Los Pumas have won 15, Italy five and there has been one draw
- In the last three tests the winning margin has been six points or less
- Nicolas Sanchez needs just five points to overtake Hugo Porta’s tally of 590 points and become Argentina’s second highest points scorer in history behind Hall of Fame 2017 inductee Felipe Contepomi
- This is head coach Daniel Hourcade’s 50th match in charge of Los Pumas
Argentina need to win by more than 15 points and hope Fiji lose to Ireland to reclaim ninth spot. A sizeable win for the Azzurri would only result in them climbing the rankings if accompanied by a draw or defeat for Japan and a loss for Georgia, in which case they would move above both and into 11th after a gain of 1.7 points.
ROMANIA (15) v SAMOA (16)
Romania’s record points scorer Florin Vlaicu wins his 105th cap and his seventh in a row at fly-half as the Oaks begin their November campaign with a largely tried and tested line-up. The forward pack contains four players with a half-century of caps to their name in front-rowe Mihai Lazar and Andrei Radoi and back-row duo, captain and flanker Mihai Macovei and number eight Stelian Burcea. Marius Simionescu is the least experienced of the XV, the full-back winning only his third cap.
Samoa have made four changes to their team, three in the pack and one in the backs. Motu Matu’u, Faatiga Lemalu and Ofisa Treviranus come into the side at hooker, second-row and number eight, while Dwayne Polataivaia wins his fourth cap scrum-half.
This is only the second meeting between the two sides, Romania having won 32-24 in Bucharest in 1989.
A home win combined with a heavy defeat for Tonga would lift Romania up one place above the ‘Ikale Tahi and into 14th. If they win by more than 15 points and Italy are on the wrong side of a similar scoreline, then Romania would close to within two hundreths of the Azzurri in 13th, their previous best ranking.
A victorious Samoa would move above Romania, with a climb of three places to 13th possible if Italy and Tonga have off days.
JAPAN (11) v TONGA (14)
Japan make five personnel changes and one positional from the team that lost to Australia a fortnight ago. Jiwon Koo makes his test debut at tight-head while Shinya Makabe returns to the second-row for the first time since RWC 2015. Captain Michael Leitch shifts from six to seven to accommodate the inclusion of Kazuki Himeno for only the second time in an international. In the backs, Yu Tamura is promoted from the bench into the number 10 jersey, while Kenki Fujita is named on the left wing.
Bristol centre Siale Piutau, brother of former All Black Charles, has been called up by Tonga and is set to win his 30th cap.
The match will be streamed live on the World Rugby website.
- Tonga have nine wins to Japan’s seven in the 16 matches dating back to 1990
- Tonga are on a four-game winning run against Japan
- The last game took place at Burnaby in Canada at the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2015 and ended in a 31-20 win for Tonga
Japan cannot move higher than 11th but will close to within a quarter of a point of Los Pumas if they win well and Argentina crash badly in Italy. If well-beaten, Japan could fall as many as three places to 14th.
The 1.81 points on offer for a big Tongan win could elevate the 'Ikale Tahi up to 11th if other results go their way too.
NAMIBIA (21) v URUGUAY (19)
With a host of players either injured or unavailable Welwitschias head coach Phil Davies has been forced to field a largely inexperienced pack - asides from Rohan Kitshoff, the stand-in captain in the absence of Renaldo Bothma, and fellow RWC 2015 campaigner, tight-head AJ de Klerk.
The backs have not been affected as much, with RWC stalwarts like David Philander, Johan Tromp, Darryl de la Harpe and JC Greyling all lining up for Namibia’s first test since they rounded off their Rugby Africa Gold Cup title win with a 45-7 victory against Kenya.
Gastón Mieres wins his 50th cap at full-back, becoming the 11th Uruguay player to reach the landmark. Dangerous runner Nicolas Freitas returns to the visitors' backline after playing no part in Los Teros’ Nations Cup win on home soil in Montevideo back in June. Named at outside centre, Freitas scored twice on his last appearance for his country – a 45-14 win against Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship earlier this year.
Namibia and Uruguay have only met once before, in Montevideo in 2000 when Uruguay won the match 23-12.
If victorious, Namibia will move above Uruguay and into the top 20. Uruguay need to win well to gain any ground.
GERMANY (22) v USA (17)
Germany have rejigged their backline from the one that beat Brazil 45-12 with a number of positional changes and two personnel. Chris Hilsenback comes in at fly-half in place of Raynor Parkinson, with Germany’s all-time leading points scorer moving to inside centre. Winston Dow also shifts out one place as a result to outside centre. Mathieu Ducau, who lined up at 13 against Os Tupis, gets a chance on the wing, while Hagen Schulte is named at full-back. The only change upfront comes at loose-head prop where Julius Nostadt replaces Jorn Schroder.
For the Eagles, uncapped prop Huluholo Mo’ungaloa is named on the bench after impressing for the USA Select XV at the recent World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge tournament. Blaine Scully captains the side form the right wing.
Germany can climb one place to 21st of they win their inaugural test against the USA. USA cannot climb any higher than 17th.
SPAIN (20) v CANADA (23)
With Tyler Ardron unavailable, Canada's most-capped player and number eight Aaron Carpenter returns to win his 80th cap on Saturday in the back-row alongside openside Kyle Baillie and Matt Heaton, who moves to blindside. Props Hubert Buydens and Matt Tierney are also restored to the front-row after missing the 54-22 loss to Georgia. The backline remains unchanged.
Saturday marks only the second time Canada and Spain will square off in a test match, with Canada winning 60-22 in 2010. Taylor Paris, DTH van der Merwe and Carpenter are the only three members of Canada’s squad from that game. All three players scored tries on the day, with Paris picking up a brace.
Canada could climb as many as three places if they win well and other results go their way. Spain could equal their joint highest position of 18th if they win and Russia and Uruguay don’t.
Portugal take on the Czech Republic in Lisbon in a RWC 2019 qualifier with the loser eliminated from the process.
Os Lobos, the higher ranked of the two, have never lost to the Czechs in eight previous outings, winning 42-6 the last time the sides met in 2008. Portugal will only improve their ranking by one place to 24th if they win and Hong Kong lose their final Cup of Nations fixture against Kenya. Hong Kong need to win that game to keep alive their hopes of preventing Russia taking a third straight title. The Bears made it two wins from two with a midweek 31-10 win over Kenya and face Chile in their final game.
Elsewhere, Brazil continue their European tour with a trip to Belgium, while Switzerland and the Netherlands meet in the Rugby Europe Trophy. Having begun their Trophy campaign with an emphatic win over Moldova, the Dutch can move up another place in the rankings to 27th if they win well and their border rivals Belgium fail to beat Brazil.
Singapore go into Saturday’s final of the Asia Rugby Championship Division II against Thailand with a lot of confidence after a 49-0 win over India in midweek. A similarly big win this weekend would result in a two-place rise to 58th, above Israel and the Philippines. The weekend's other fixture sees India host Chinese Taipei.