It’s Friday and mid-November which means there is plenty of action ahead this weekend as the autumn internationals continue on European soil. All of the Six Nations teams are in action against their Southern Hemisphere counterparts, making for a number of mouthwatering encounters.
Not to be outdone, the Rugby League World Cup reaches the knock-out stages as the Quarter-finals take place, with all the top contenders having safely negotiated the group stages. This is when the business end of the competition starts and when the men will be separated from the boys for a place in the last four.
So forget about the Christmas shopping this weekend and sit back to savour the top teams and players in both rugby codes. Whether a union or league fan, rejoice in non-stop rugby action and show off support for your nation.
The stand out tie of the autumn internationals is undoubtedly the meeting between England and New Zealand at Rugby HQ. The All Blacks are on the brink of going the whole international season unbeaten and just eighty minutes of play can deny them this impressive feat. They will be only too well of the threat that the hosts hold though having last year recorded a 38-21 victory and ending their 20 game unbeaten record in emphatic style. With Dan Carter celebrating his 100th cap on Saturday, England will be hoping to spoil the party and record back-to-back victory against the number one ranked nation.
Over in Cardiff and Wales will be looking for a morale boosting victory against an Argentina side which are the weakest of the Rugby Championship quartet. Having run South Africa close last weekend, the men in red have something of a hoodoo hanging over them when it comes to beating the southern hemisphere sides as their last victory came against this weekend’s opponents in August 2011. Wales will certainly be wanting to rectify this record as this time last year the Pumas left the Millennium Stadium with a 26-12 win.
Elsewhere and Australia face an Ireland side who comfortably dispatched of Samoa 40-9 last week and will be looking to take a Wallabies scalp. The last time the two sides met was at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the Irish claimed a hard fought 15-6 victory. Two years on and Australia travel to Ireland buoyed by running in seven tries in Italy last week so there is certainly the potential for a feast of tries. Rounding up the home nations action and Scotland face the daunting task of welcoming the world’s second ranked team, South Africa. Having beaten Japan seven days ago, the power of the Springboks will provide an altogether more formidable opposition who last time out won a close encounter 21-10 at Murrayfield in 2012.
Autumn Internationals Fixtures
Saturday 16th Nov
Italy v Fiji – 2pm
England v New Zealand – 2:30pm
Wales v Argentina – 2:30pm
France v Tonga – 5pm
Ireland v Australia – 5:45pm
Sunday 17th Nov
Scotland v South Africa – 3pm
Switching codes and Friday night sees the first of the four Quarter-finals being staged between New Zealand and Scotland. You would be a very brave man to bet against the Kiwis dispatching of Scotland in a comfortable fashion with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and co involved but don’t rule out the Bravehearts entirely as they make their debut in the final eight. No team is unbeatable and the Kiwis will remember only too well that against all odds they beat Australia in the 2008 final and went into it as overwhelming underdogs.
Saturday serves up two matches as England and Australia look to book their places in the last four, against France and the USA respectively. With the Kangaroos having secured top spot in their group after beating the hosts in the opening match of the tournament, the Americans should prove just another stepping stone in their quest to reclaim the world title. A similar encounter awaits England as France travel to Wigan, hoping to run the hosts closer than the 48-4 defeat that was inflicted on them last November. France would have to conjure up one of, if not, the greatest upsets in Rugby League World Cup history to take the scalp of England but the hosts will only be too weary having lost to Italy in a friendly prior to the tournament.
The closest to call of all the Quarter-finals is the Pacific Islanders match up between Samoa and Fiji on Sunday. With the winner likely to face Australia in the semis, in reality this is the bigger match for both sides as the honour of being the top Pacific side is certainly at stake. Expect a bruising encounter that will quite literally send shock waves through the Rugby League World Cup.
So by all accounts we should be seeing New Zealand facing England and Australia meeting Samoa or Fiji in the semi-finals. By Sunday night we will know how true this actually is and how many casualties there have been following three days of hard hitting action.
Rugby League Quarter Finals
Friday 15th Nov
New Zealand v Scotland – 8pm
Saturday 16th Nov
Australia v USA – 1pm
England v France – 8pm
Sunday 17th Nov
Samoa v Fiji – 3pm
Check out Lovell Rugby’s collection of replica rugby shirts and clothing to wear with pride and show off your support with this season.