So, the teams. We have broken them down by Northern and Southern Hemisphere and have focused on the bigger teams, but we do have some exciting newcomers to the Autumn Internationals to mention too.
Remember - we'll also have some awesome experiential activity on Queen St, Cardiff on 25th November, where the fastest passes make it onto our leaderboard and the top 10 every hour can win some awesome prizes as well as the top 10 overall passes on the day. AND we're giving away tickets to the Wales x South Africa match on the 2nd! Finally, Under Armour are boosting their discount every weekend until Dec 2nd to celebrate each Wales match!
We are heading to the Wales v New Zealand game to help you guys enjoy Cardiff and the rugby as much as possible, so we’ll start with our adopted team, Wales. After some controversy with their coach Warren Gatland on the Lions tour being criticised for poor coaching, and changes in selection rules meaning some players may miss out by moving to England or France (think Toby Faletau, George North and Rhys Webb) Wales will be looking to put this behind them and make a statement on the pitch. They have a very poor record against Southern Hemisphere sides, but will be looking to make a statement against Australia to start their Autumn well.
England’s recent unbeaten record needs little explanation, and after an exciting series against Argentina in the summer where over 10 tries were scored per game (watch the highlights if you can!!), a lot of fans are hopeful for an exciting autumn for England. Sadly England will not be playing the All Blacks until next year, but given that Eddie Jones is working with a squad with a large number of injuries, this may be the perfect opportunity for England to add strength in depth to their squad.
The changes to the Pro 14 mean that the Celtic teams (Scottish, Welsh and Irish) are starting to see some South African opposition on a regular basis, and Scotland will be hoping that they can translate some of this additional knowledge into a successful Autumn Internationals. There have been some disciplinary and performance issues around the squad leading up to these Internationals, with the particular focus being on Edinburgh’s squad and their extra-curricular evening activities. Additionally, losing Ross Ford to injury means other leaders within the squad will have to step up to ensure Scotland don’t under-perform this year with all the potential they have built. Glasgow, in particular, are playing very exciting rugby and hopefully, this will translate to the national team.
Despite contributing a number of Lions to the tour this year, the general feeling seems to be that Ireland’s star is waning slightly on the international scene, with the exception being the fantastic win in Chicago. However, with Jonny Sexton struggling with consistency and no heir apparent in the 10 shirt, Ireland may struggle for form this year. The front row is still looking positive, with Furlong and Healey playing well domestically.
Renowned for being New Zealand’s ‘bogey’ team France always have the potential to be magical or terrible, seemingly depending on the day of the week. A truly mercurial team, players like Yoann Huget have tormented defences and France’s pack still have a reputation for being one of the strongest in the world, assisted by the giant Toulon pair Romain Taofifénua and Sébastien Vahaamahina. The French national league has been one of the richest in the world for a number of years, and many are concerned that this has led to an ‘ageing’ of the French half backs, with few younger talents coming through the league. A change in rules which helped lure Louis Picamoles back to Montpellier may help, however, with French players needing to stay in France to play for the national team, rather than moving when an Australian or South African player is brought in over the top of them.
Conor O’Shea still has a lot of work to do with his Italy side and with an ageing Sergio Parisse the planning for the future needs to start sooner rather than later. Italy also lack a solid 10 with less than 25 caps between their two selected players. Zebre and Benneton Treviso have shown some improvement in the Pro 14 but this could be a difficult Autumn for the Italians.
Georgia are the international ‘New Boys’ but have been renowned for years in the Churchill Cup for their forward power, particularly in the front row, where many players have been picked up by the major French teams, including Levan Chilachava at Toulon. Mamuka Gorgodze was the Parisse of Georgian rugby but has announced his retirement from international rugby, leaving Godzilla-sized boots to be filled.
New Zealand (All Blacks)
The most recognisable rugby team in the world have (with some exceptions) been a completely dominant attacking force against international opposition with Steve Hansen driving his talented squad to greater and greater successes. However, a Bledisloe Cup loss against an Australian team with something to prove, and a first-half scare against a spirited Barbarians side last weekend (not to mention the Lions tour draw) have shown defensive and structural frailties in the All Blacks side that other teams will be looking to exploit. That being said, after humbling South Africa and Australia on separate occasions, New Zealand are favourites to come out of the Autumn unbeaten.
South Africa have had a strange few years with many ups and downs, notably a World Cup loss to Eddie Jones’ Japan, and their biggest ever international defeat by New Zealand, getting stuffed 57-0. In between times, South Africa have dominated France in the summer series, and seen some new forwards stepping up as enforcers. South Africa have failed to find consistency at 10 since Morne Steyn’s departure, with Handre Pollard touted as being the new hope at fly half. Siya Kolisi gets a notable mention for his exceptional pace and some excellent summer performances.
Australia will be heading to the Northern Hemisphere hoping to put a number of substantial defeats by England over the past few years behind them. Michael Cheika’s reign has been a mixed one, with a recent Bledisloe Cup win against a weakened All Black’s side likely to raise Australian spirits. The Aussies will be hoping for a strong start against Wales in the big opening game in Cardiff following their demolition of Japan last week. Notably, Israel Folau misses this trip having invoked a break clause in his international contract, leaving a big hole at 15 which teams will be happy to see.
An extended spell in the Rugby Championship (an international southern hemisphere rugby tournament played against the three sides above), Argentina have turned their World Cup pedigree into more consistent performances internationally, blending a mix of forward power and flair in the backs. Argentina will be hoping to record wins against Italy and Ireland at least, with England being a tougher prospect. Argentina’s squad are drawn exclusively from local teams and, save for two players, the squad comes from the Jaguares super rugby team, so will know each other very well.
The hosts of the 2019 World Cup will be looking to test themselves against strong opposition this Autumn before making preparations to shine in their home cup. Maintaining a Japan-based squad should help cohesion, but being overwhelmed by a strong Australia side last week may have knocked their confidence.
Known for their raw power with slightly less finesse than their neighbours Fiji, Samoa have caused a few upsets on the international scene, but expect big hits and power plays, but for them to fall short against the Tier 1 nations this year.
World leading 7s nation Fiji are legendary for their ostentatious offloads and pace and power combination, but in the 15s format have historically lacked forwards cohesion which has meant they fall short of their potential. Expect flair when they have the ball, but other teams will look to control possession to minimise their threat.
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