Four matches outside of the November test window take place this weekend with Japanese rugby fans getting another chance to see the All Blacks in action before they head off to Europe for the rest of their end-of-year tour.

Having beaten Australia 37-20 in Yokohama last weekend, Steve Hansen's side have stayed on in the RWC 2019 host country for a second week and will play the Brave Blossoms in Tokyo in what is only the fourth test between the sides.

Meanwhile, Six Nations champions Ireland, ranked second behind New Zealand in the World Rugby Rankings, will revisit the scene of arguably their greatest triumph when they take on Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago. Joe Schmidt's side famously defeated the All Blacks for the first time in their history at the venue in 2016.

Emotions will be running high at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff as two old foes, Wales and Scotland, do battle for the Doddie Weir Cup, while at Twickenham England will be looking to gain revenge for their 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in Saturday's eagerly awaited encounter against the resurgent Springboks.

We take a quick look at the team news and facts and figures ahead of kick-off as well as working out the various World Rugby Rankings permutations.



Team news

Japan coach Jamie Joseph has made four changes – one positional – to the side that started the narrow 31-28 loss to the World XV in Osaka. Hooker Atsushi Sakate is promoted from the bench to start, while Kazuki Himeno returns in the back-row alongside captain Michael Leitch and Hendrik Tui. In the backline, Jamie Henry shifts to the right-wing for his test debut in place of the injured Lomano Lemeki with Ryohei Yamanaka filling the vacated full-back jersey.

Two new All Blacks have been named in the starting XV in openside flanker Dalton Papalii and centre Matt Proctor, with six more players set to make their test debuts from the bench: prop Tyrel Lomax, loose forwards Gareth Evans and Dillon Hunt, scrum-half Mitchell Drummond, fly-half Brett Cameron and winger George Bridge. It will be the second appearance in the black jersey for Hunt and Drummond, who played the non-capped international against a France XV last year. Luke Whitelock, who captained the All Blacks in that match, will captain the side for the first time in a test.

In brief

  • Only five All Blacks – Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Dane Coles and Ofa Tu'ungafasi – among the match-day squad have played more than 10 tests
  • Luke Whitelock becomes New Zealand’s 70th test captain
  • The All Blacks and Japan have played each other three times since 1995, with the most recent match in November 2013 in Tokyo ending in a 54-6 win for the visitors
  • The 145 points New Zealand put on Japan at RWC 1995 is still the most points scored by a team in a single Rugby World Cup match
  • Saturday’s match will be played at Tokyo’s 49,000 capacity Ajinomoto Stadium, one of the venues for RWC 2019

Rankings predictor

There will be no change to New Zealand’s rating if they win, due to the large points differential between themselves and the Brave Blossoms. But the All Blacks will lose their number one ranking if they are beaten by more than 15 points and Ireland defeat Italy in Chicago. Japan will climb one place to 10th with victory and two if they win by more than 15 points to equal their highest ever ranking of ninth.


Team news

Wales have named two uncapped players with Luke Morgan named on the wing and fly-half Jarrod Evans selected on the bench. Morgan, Wales Sevens’ all-time leading try scorer, will make his debut at Principality Stadium alongside the experienced duo of British and Irish Lions George North and Leigh Halfpenny. Eight Lions in total are selected, including 2017 Player of the Series Jonathan Davies who returns from injury to feature for his country for the first time this year. He partners Scarlets team-mate Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield with Gareth Anscombe and Gareth Davies the half-back pairing.

In the pack, prop Dillon Lewis makes his first start at home for Wales, while Justin Tipuric is tasked with replacing the now-retired Sam Warburton at openside flanker. With Taulupe Faletau ruled out with a broken arm, the number eight duties go to Ross Moriarty. Alun Wyn Jones captains the side from the second row.

In-form Glasgow fly-half Adam Hastings is handed the Scotland jersey by Gregor Townsend with Finn Russell unavailable due to his club commitments in France. Blair Kinghorn replaces the injured Stuart Hogg at full-back as Scotland look to avenge their 34-7 defeat by Wales at the same venue in the first round of the Six Nations. Four players who missed Scotland’s June tour return in second-row Jonny Gray, prop Willem Nel and back-rows Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson. Edinburgh back Darcy Graham earns his first appearance in a Scotland match-day 23 and could make his debut if called upon from the bench. Graham’s club team-mate, Stuart McInally, captains the side from hooker.

In brief

  • Wales are on a nine-match winning streak at home against Scotland dating back to 2002 when the Scots won 27-22
  • Scotland have conceded 27 points or more in each of their last seven games against Wales in Cardiff
  • February's 34-7 defeat to Wales was Scotland’s 50th loss in tests between the two teams
  • The teams will be competing for the Doddie Weir Cup, in homage to the former Scotland second-row who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease

Rankings predictor

The gap between Wales and Ireland in second will be down to just over half a point if Warren Gatland’s side win by more than 15 points and Ireland lose by the same margin against Italy. However, Wales could fall one place, even in victory, if the margin is less than 15 points and England beat South Africa by more than 15 points. Wales will fall two places to fifth if they lose and South Africa also win with Scotland climbing two to fourth. Scotland will fall one place, below Australia, in defeat.

IRELAND (2) v ITALY (14)

Team news

Rhys Ruddock will captain a much-changed Ireland side at Soldier Field, one featuring 13 players to have come through the World Rugby U20 Championship pathway in the starting line-up. The flanker is one of only two starting players with more than 15 caps to their name, the other prop Jack McGrath who will play his 54th test in Chicago – there are four others on the bench. World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year 2018 nominee Jordan Larmour gets the nod at full-back for his first test start, while Ross Byrne and Will Addison could make their Ireland debuts off the bench against the Azzurri.

England-based centre Michele Campagnaro will lead Italy for the first time in his 35th cap. Campagnaro is the only player in Conor O’Shea’s starting XV to be based overseas with eight players from Benetton and six from Zebre involved. Luca Sperandio and Renato Giammarioli win their third caps, at full-back and number eight respectively, while Johan Meyer is handed his first cap. Jimmy Tuivaiti is also set to make his international debut after being named on the bench. With the likes of Leonardo Ghiraldhini, Alessandro Zanni and Sergio Parisse missing, Italy’s starting line-up contains only 231 caps.

In brief

  • Italy ended an eight-match losing run when they defeated Japan 25-22 in Kobe in June
  • Ireland's only defeat this year came in the first test in June when Australia won 18-9 in Brisbane
  • Ireland have failed to score more than 28 points in their last five tests
  • Ireland have won 24 matches and Italy four in the head-to-head, the Azzurri's last win coming in Rome in March 2013
  • Italy coach Conor O'Shea played 35 tests for Ireland between 1993 and 2000

Rankings predictor

With more than 17 points between themselves and the Azzurri, a victorious Ireland cannot improve their rating or position in the rankings. However, they are assured of second place regardless of the outcome at Soldier Field in Chicago. A three-place rise to 11th is possible for Italy if they win by more than 15 points and Japan lose against the All Blacks. A narrower victory would still result in them leapfrogging Tonga and Georgia into 12th, while a draw will lift Italy above the Lelos to 13th.


Team news

Exeter prop Alec Hepburn is handed his first start in a pack light on experience. Co-captain Dylan Hartley, capped 93 times, has made more international appearances than the rest of the forwards put together with the back row of Brad Shields, Tom Curry and Mark Wilson only just stretching into double figures in terms of tests played.

George Kruis, Jack Nowell and Ben Te’o are included for the first time since the Six Nations, while Manu Tuilagi is back in the fold for the first time in two-and-a-half years but has to be content with a place on the bench. Uncapped duo Ben Moon and Zach Mercer are among the replacements, but Chris Ashton misses out altogether with Nowell and Jonny May the preferred options on the wings.

The Springboks have announced a side with seven changes to the starting XV which lined up against New Zealand three weeks ago in Pretoria. Captain Siya Kolisi is joined in a new-look back-row by fit-again number eight Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen on the blindside. Pieter-Steph du Toit shifts to the second-row, while Lood de Jager is also included among the replacements and is set to make his first Springbok appearance of 2018. In the backs, Damian Willemse is set to make his first start for the Springboks at full-back, in place of Willie Le Roux, while Sbu Nkosi returns to the right wing and Ivan van Zyl gets the nod at scrum-half.

In brief

  • England and South Africa first played against each other at Twickenham some 105 years ago, on 4 January, 1913. The Springboks emerged victorious 9-3 that day in front of 29,000 spectators
  • England have won nine and lost 11 of the 20 matches played between the nations at the venue
  • England’s biggest win against South Africa is 53-3 – at Twickenham in November 2002
  • Malcolm Marx and Damian Willemse are the only two Springbok players who have never played in a test match against England

Rankings predictor

England cannot improve their current position of fourth with a victory unless Wales draw, lose or they win by more than 15 points and Wales can only manage a smaller margin of victory over Scotland. South Africa will swap places with England if they win at Twickenham and they could even climb as high as third if Scotland beat Wales. In such a scenario, England would fall two places to sixth.

Elsewhere, there are also four matches in the Rugby Europe International Championship with Poland welcoming Lithuania to Lodz in the Trophy and Andorra hosting Slovakia in Conference 2 South. There are also two matches in Conference 1 North with Hungary travelling to Moldova and Luxembourg hosting Sweden. The weekend's other men's match does not count towards to rankings as it sees the USA tackle the Maori All Blacks as part of a triple header in Chicago with the Ireland v Italy match and the repeat of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 semi-final between USA and New Zealand.

The World Rugby Rankings update at 12:00 GMT every Monday.