November Preview: Home Unions set to begin November campaigns
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all in action in Autumn Internationals as international rugby once again takes centre stage.
Scotland and Wales will open the action in an intriguing all-Six Nations clash that takes place outside of the usual February to March season.
Fittingly, the fixture will celebrate Doddie Weir with the teams competing for a cup bearing the Lions and Scotland legend’s name. A range of activities aimed at supporting the ‘My Name’5 Doddie’ Fund are also planned.
The week has been a difficult one for Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland, who returned to New Zealand for the funeral of his father only arriving back on Wednesday. Rob Howley and Robyn McBride took care of things in the two-time Lions Head Coach’s absence.
Wales have named a side full of Lions quality with Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty all set to start. Davies returns to the international fold for the first time in a year since suffering an injury against Australia in last year’s November series.
Wing Luke Morgan and out-half Gareth Anscombe are among the other eye-catching selections in selection which has seen Gatland mix experience with youth and strong club form.
📹 Welcome back Warren…. pic.twitter.com/yNHzcXVSsG
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 1, 2018
For Scotland, Adam Hastings is in the hotseat at number 10. The son of Scotland and Lions great Gavin has been earning rave reviews for club and country and now has the perfect opportunity to prove his quality on this even more testing stage.
Despite some injury absentees, notably Stuart Hogg and John Barclay, many of Scotland’s key men are available with Tommy Seymour, Hamish Watson, Jonny Gray and Blair Kinghorn among those who will need big performances if they are to claim a rare victory in Cardiff.
England’s clash with South Africa kicks off shortly afterwards on Saturday afternoon.
Having won the most recent meeting between the two-sides at a sodden Newlands during the summer, England will hopeful of repeating that feat at home.
But South Africa have developed mightily in the interim, earning victory over New Zealand in Wellington and running the All Blacks close at Loftus Versveld a few weeks later.
Rugby Championship defeats on the road to Argentina and Australia hint at a certain inconsistency though the effect on morale of those performances against the New Zealand shouldn’t be underestimated.
Rassie Erasmus has named a powerful, and sizeable, XV with hooker Malcolm Marx and out-half Handre Pollard set to play key roles in what could be a set-piece battle.
The inability to select Faf de Klerk, Willie Le Roux and Francois Louw does deny the Springboks some of their best performers over the summer and give an inexperienced look in certain areas.
On the English side, there are plenty of game influencers and pack with plenty of speed.
Maro Itoje was at his game-influencing best for Saracens in Europe recently while Owen Farrell, in his favoured out-half role, and Ben Te’o alongside at 12 and Henry Slade outside him looking like a potentially potent mix.
England have struggled for results against South Afirca in recent seasons but may feel that they are due a change of luck.
Ireland and Italy face off in Chicago in another all Six Nations clash.
Joe Schmidt has left quite a few of his big names out of the matchday 23 for the return to the scene of the epic victory over New Zealand two years’ ago though is still in position to select a powerful side.
Irish fans will keep a keen eye on starting out-half Joey Carbery and replacement Ross Byrne. Both have been in excellent form at club level recently and this is a key skirmish in the battle to be Johnny Sexton’s understudy leading in to 2019.
More exciting talents are dotted throughout with Jordan Larmour at full-back and Garry Ringrose among those capable of highlight reel moments.
Up front, former Scarlet Tadhg Beirne gets a chance to impress as a starter while back-rowers Rhys Ruddock (captain), Josh Van Der Flier and Jack Conan will be doing all they can to move from the supporting cast into starring roles.
A big win is expected but Italian rugby has quietly been achieving under the surface though the side, captained by recent Wasps recruit Michele Campagnaro, will have it all to do against an Irish side in which every member will be keen to impress Schmidt.