The last week of internationals for most with only South Africa who will play Wales next week. I t has been an interesting few weeks with a a few sides surprising the bigger unions.
First test of the weekend is Italy hosting the struggling Springboks.
Allister Coetzee has come under huge criticism for his selections and game plan but it seems he will be sticking to his so called continuity policy. Coetzee have however made a few changes to the side that narrowly won against France last week with Du Toit returning and again playing outside hi position on the side of the scrum.
Bongi Mbonambi also gets a change to start at hooker this weekend with Gelant only able to make the bench for Saturday where he will hopefully make his debut for the Boks.
Coetzee had decided not to risk Marx after he injured his shoulder last week and promoted Bongi to the starting lineup. This will be his first start for the green and gold after twelve test caps fromn the bench.
Paige are however not so lucky as he is still only warming the bench again this weekend.
The Springboks go into the test with the lost of last year fresh in the back of their heads and it does not seem Coetzee troops are much better off than when they lost against Italy last year.
Just to think that a Springbok side coach is talking about picking hist strongest side against a team like Italy who cannot even buy a win in the Six Nations, shows you that the state of Springbok rugby is even worst than last year.
Springboks should be able to pick a B Team against a side like Italy and still win.
The Italians November series did not go as plan and they will want to get a win this week around and with the confident of last years surprise against the Springboks you will be sure they will go for the Boks.
Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.
“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.
Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.
To add some more spice to the test Mr Poite is the man in the middle.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian Mckinley, 23 Matteo Minozzi
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant
Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Stadio Euganeo, Padova
Kick-Off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)
England coach Eddie Jones made nine changes to his side to face Samoa this weekend with George Ford and Robshaw being named as co-captains for the test.
It has been a bit of both worlds for Jones England side with a somewhat poor performance against the Argentinians in week one but an emphatic win against the Aussies last week. England took the pressure and in the final quarter of the test put Australia to sward.
Their was a few lucky calls and the bounce of the ball but the great Gary Player always said :” You make your own luck”
England is steadily building towards the World Cup in Japan and are clearly the worlds second best team behind the All Blacks. They have been steadily improving since Jones took over in 2016 and the next two years will go in winning the World Cup.
Samoa should not cause a problem for England with the quality they have at the moment but we know how smaller test sides step up when they play the bigger unions and England will have to pitch up against Samoa.
Samoa was not bad this test series in Europe and with huge men they play a very direct game so defence will be vital for England.
It should be another great test and one to surely tune in for on Saturday
“This is an exciting squad to play against Samoa and we are expecting them to be immensely physical and committed this weekend,” said Jones.
“We want to follow up last week’s performance against Australia and play better again this week. Our intent in every game and every training session is to be better.
“This week it is an opportunity for some squad members who haven’t been playing to put their best foot forward. We will have to play smart and will need to find ways to win the contest against Samoa.
“The crowd last week were outstanding and we want to put on a good performance again for them this weekend.”
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Danny Care, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw (cc), 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni
Samoa: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 David Lemi, 10 Tim Nanai-Williams, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Jack Lam, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Jordan Lay
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 JJ Taulagi
Date: Saturday, November 25
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Scotland taking on Australia will most properly be the test of the weekend and the one not to be missed as it is expected to be a great advert for the game with both teams playing better when they do keep ball in hand.
Scotland will be going full out to achieve the double on the Aussies this year with the win they had early this year in Australia.
It will surely not be easy with the Aussies that will still be a little bit upset on how the test went last week against England. It would have been a very disruptive week for the Aussies with their coach also being investigated for an outburst on the side of the field.
The Aussies had a difficult year with bad performances in June and against the All Blacks but did manage two draws and a win at the end against New Zealand before coming on the end of year tour.
Another lost against the English will not sit well with Cheika nor his players and Scotland may be in for a backlash this weekend.
The problem for Australia will be not to get to emotional about the lost earlier this year against the Scots nor the lost against England last week as this Scottish side is becoming a dangerous team with great abilities to score tries from anywhere on the field.
The Scots have enjoyed a massive two years and even British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admitted that it was tough on Scotland who he felt were unlucky not to have more representation in the squad named to tour New Zealand.
Groundbreaking wins over Wales and Ireland in the Six Nations shows the axis of power is slowly shifting in British rugby with Scotland closing the gap on their counterparts quite significantly.
This is going to be a cracker don’t miss it.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Byron McGuigan
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight
Date: Saturday, November 25
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Wilkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
The welsh have been struggling this test series and have not been their best by a long way. One of the teams that normally get off well in November, they struggled to get rythm this year and they will be up against it when they face the All Blacks.
Luckily for Wales the All Blacks have not really kicked on like we expected after the close win at Newlands against the Boks and the lost against the Aussies this year. Hansen had made a few changes this tour to his side given all his players in his squad a change unlike Coetzee with the Springboks.
The problem for Wales is that even a New Zealand second best test side can win most other test nations and they will also be going out to end their year and tour on a good performance this weekend.
The last time Wales beat the All Blacks was back in 1953 and they will have to improve 200% from what we have seen so far this series to have any chance to beat the world best side.
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who will captain the side in the absence of Read, feels the fact that Wales haven’t beaten his country in more than 50 years has no relevance on this weekend’s Test.
“It’s one of those things, history’s history,” he said.
“Once it’s happened you can’t change it, it’s happened. We’re always just looking forward to the next game and that’s this week.
“We are aware of it to a point but we don’t put a lot of time and energy onto that. We’re just trying to energise the current group and looking forward to this week. We feel that’s the best way to go and have a good performance.”
Taking on the All Blacks, who are the game’s leaders in attack, is a formidable task and Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards highlighted the enormity of the task at hand, paricularly for him.
“Let’s be honest, I have got a pretty tough job this week, probably one of the toughest jobs in world sport to be the defence coach against the All Blacks,” he said.
“But you know me, I am up for a challenge. Hopefully on Saturday we can put pressure on through our line speed, but there is a lot more to defending than just having line speed. There are a lot of different aspects to it.
“One of them is what Scotland did very well. They held the ball for 60 percent of the time. They had 60 per cent territory and 60 per cent possession.
“If we can do that, I will be very happy. Even though the All Blacks only had 40 per cent possession, they still scored three tries and were still very dangerous, but obviously starving them of the ball is one way of keeping their attack quiet.”
These sides met last year in New Zealand with the All Blacks claiming a 3-0 series whitewash.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Ireland as with England had two indifferent performances this series with a great win over the Springboks and really so-so performance against Fiji. Many where surprised by the way the Irish played last week against Fiji and almost lost the test.
This will be a huge test for them and they will want to get things back on track as what they showed against the Springboks. The Pumas is a difficult side as yo never know what to expect from them even if they had one of their worst season this year.
The Argentinians can not be taken lightly and Ireland can be sure that they will have to face a angry and determined Puma side this weekend.
Adam Byrne will win his first cap for Ireland on the right wing on Saturday.
Joining Byrne in the back-three will be Rob Kearney at full-back and Jacob Stockdale on the other wing.
Chris Farrell, who made his debut last week, is paired in the centre with Bundee Aki, who got his first start against South Africa in the opneing game of the end-of-year series.
Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray resume their partnership in the half-backs.
Rory Best returns to captain the team and is joined in the front-row by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong while James Ryan starts in the second-row with Iain Henderson.
Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander return to the back-row.
The replacements are James Tracy, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway.
This should be a an pertaining test and one to look out for
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
Here is a list of all the Test matches this weekend from around the Globe.
||Stadio Euganeo, Padova
||Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi
||Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium, Windhoek
||Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucuresti
||Parc des sports et de l”Amitie, Narbonne
||U Arena, Nanterre