In addition to eight mouth-watering November internationals, headlined by England's first game against New Zealand for four years, Canada, Hong Kong, Kenya and Germany start their bid to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 via the repechage tournament in Marseille and Romania and Portugal play-off for the right to compete in next year's Rugby Europe Championship. In total, 14 matches count towards the World Rugby Rankings with plenty of movement possible across the board.
It's been four years since the #AllBlacks swept England 3-0 on their tour to New Zealand.— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 8, 2018
Who will come out on top when these two teams meet in the much anticipated clash this weekend?#ENGvNZL pic.twitter.com/wXGCuBAfvQ
ENGLAND (4) v NEW ZEALAND (1)
Chris Ashton, who scored a try when England last beat New Zealand in 2012, will start on the right wing in a side showing three changes to the one that edged out the Springboks 12-11 at Twickenham last week. Ben Moon is also rewarded for an impressive debut off the bench with the loose-head spot, while Sam Underhill is a direct replacement for the injured Tom Curry on the openside. There are three changes to the bench too, with Alec Hepburn swapping places with his Exeter Chiefs team-mate Moon, Jack Nowell and a call-up for Courtney Lawes.
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year nominee Karl Tu'inukuafe comes into the All Blacks starting XV for injured loose-head Joe Moody and is joined in the front row by Codie Taylor and Owen Franks. Coach Steve Hansen names an entirely different starting line-up to that which beat Japan 69-31 in Tokyo last weekend with Brodie Retallick and Samuel Whitelock resuming their formidable second-row partnership and captain Kieran Read returning in the back-row. World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year nominee Beauden Barrett is partnered by Aaron Smith at half-back, while Jack Goodhue returns from illness at outside-centre.
- New Zealand and England will also be playing their 10th match for the Hillary Shield. The trophy, named in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, was first contested for in 2008
- The All Blacks and England have played each other 40 times in their much-storied history, with 32 wins to the All Blacks, seven to England and one draw
- The most recent test was in November 2014 at Twickenham, which the All Blacks narrowly won 24-21
- England co-captain Owen Farrell is one point short of reaching 700 points for his country
- Second-rows Brodie Retallick and Samuel Whitelock will be playing their 49th test together, equalling the All Blacks starting partnership record set by Robin Brooke and Ian Jones
If New Zealand beat England on Saturday, they are guaranteed to mark nine years atop the World Rugby Rankings on 16 November. An England win will see them climb above Wales into third place. England cannot drop from their current position of fourth.
IRELAND (2) v ARGENTINA (9)
Rory Best returns to captain Ireland for 27th time having missed out on the tour of Australia and last weekend’s win against Italy in Chicago through injury. The starting pack has had a complete overhaul with Cian Healy and Tadgh Furlong back at prop, Iain Henderson and James Ryan making up the second row and Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander packing down behind them in the back row. Second-half hat-trick hero Jordan Larmour, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale are the only players retained in the backline with Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton and Kieran Marmion the new faces from last week.
Los Pumas coach Mario Ledesma has made five changes to the side that lost to Australia 45-34 in the final round of the Rugby Championship. Marcos Kremer drops out of the match-day 23 altogether and has been replaced by Matias Alemanno, while Guido Petti shifts from the second-row to openside flanker. At prop, Santiago Medrano and Santiago Garcia Botta come in for Ramiro Herrera and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro at tight-head and loose-head respectively. The always hotly-contested scrum-half position sees Tomas Cubelli preferred to Gonzalo Bertranou and Bautista Delguy is the other new face on the wing.
- Argentina have never beaten Ireland on Irish soil in eight previous attempts
- Argentina's 43-20 RWC 2015 quarter-final win over Ireland in Cardiff was their third win in four tournament meetings between the teams
- The 43 points scored by Argentina was the joint most Ireland have conceded in a Rugby World Cup game
- Ireland exacted revenge at the one and only meeting since then, winning 28-19 at the Aviva Stadium last November
Ireland cannot overtake New Zealand even if the All Blacks lose by more than 15 points to England as they gain nothing for a win over lower-ranked Argentina. Argentina will climb if they lose by any margin and France are put to the sword by South Africa. Argentina can climb as high as seventh if they win well and other results go in their favour.
FRANCE (8) v SOUTH AFRICA (5)
Number eight Louis Picamoles is back in the France team for the first time in a year, as coach Jacques Brunel makes 13 changes to the team beaten 49-14 by New Zealand in Dunedin in June. Fleet-footed winger Teddy Thomas and experienced second-row Yoann Maestri are the only survivors from that encounter which saw New Zealand complete a 3-0 series whitewash. Other notable inclusions are Camille Lopez at fly-half, the Clermont man playing in his first test for 18 months after injury, and Damian Penaud, who makes his first appearance for France on the wing after playing as a centre in his five previous tests. Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado will captain the side for the 23rd time.
The experienced trio of Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Franco Mostert return to the Springbok starting team as the only changes from last week's narrow loss to England. Le Roux takes over the full-back duties from Damian Willemse while World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year nominee De Klerk comes in at scrum-half to replace Ivan van Zyl, with the rest of the backline kept unchanged. Mostert comes in for Eben Etzebeth, who sustained a foot injury at Twickenham, in the only change to the pack. With the availability of the Springboks’ European-based players, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus also announced three changes to the replacements. Vincent Koch (prop), Francois Louw (loose forward) and Cheslin Kolbe (utility back) are set to provide impact off the bench.
- In 43 previous tests, South Africa have won 26 matches to France's 11 with six draws
- South Africa won last year's corresponding fixture 18-17
- The Springboks have won on their last two visits to the Stade de France
- Springbok fly-half Handré Pollard needs one point to reach 300 career points in test rugby. Should he score 14 points or more in this match, he will surpass Naas Botha’s career record of 312 points and will move up to fourth position on the all-time point scoring list for South Africa
- Jannie de Beer scored 34 points through two conversions, five penalty goals and a world record of five drop goals when South Africa first played at the Stade de France, in the 44-21 win over England at RWC 1999
- The Springboks played their first test match against France at the Stade de France two years later, on 10 November 2001. South Africa lost 20-10 in front of 70,000 spectators
South Africa will fall two places to seventh if both they and Australia lose and Scotland beat Fiji. Even a thumping win for the tourists might not be enough to keep the Springboks in fifth place, as Australia will move above them if they beat Wales whatever the outcome in Paris. France will fall two places if they lose and Argentina and Fiji win. A badly beaten France will still lose eighth place even if Los Pumas suffer a defeat.
WALES (3) v AUSTRALIA (6)
Tomas Francis, Adam Beard and Josh Adams come into the starting XV from the side that beat Scotland in Wales’ opening match of the November series. Worcester winger Adams, who wins his fifth cap, is the only change to the backline and has the vastly experienced Leigh Halfpenny and George North alongside him. In the pack, Francis comes into the front-row alongside Nicky Smith and Elliot Dee. Beard, who started both the tests against Argentina in June, packs down in the second-row alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.
There are four new faces in the Australia line-up from the one that lost the Tokyo test to New Zealand last month. Adam Coleman will start in the second-row after missing the third Bledisloe Cup loss because of a groin strain, while Jack Dempsey and Samu Kerevi make their long-awaited return to the starting side after playing off the bench against New Zealand. Kerevi’s start at outside-centre has forced a reshuffle to the Wallabies' backline with Israel Folau returning to the right wing. Sefa Naivalu has been preferred to Marika Koroibete on the other flank.
- Wales extended their unbeaten run to six matches with victory over Scotland last weekend
- Australia have won their last 13 games against Wales - seven of them by one score or less
- Australia need to score 27 points to bring up 1,000 in tests against Wales
- Alun Wyn Jones has a 50 per cent win record in 18 previous tests as captain
- Hooker Tolu Latu will make just his second test start on Saturday, almost two years on from his first against France back in November 2016
Wales will fall one place below England even if both sides win. A beaten Wales could slip as low as sixth. Australia will climb one place to fifth if they draw so long as South Africa also draw or lose. The Wallabies must win by more than 15 to climb above Wales in the rankings with third place possible if the margin is sufficiently large and England are beaten badly at Twickenham.
SCOTLAND (7) v FIJI (10)
British and Irish Lions full-back Stuart Hogg returns to the Scotland line-up after recovering from ankle surgery. He is among nine changes to the team beaten in the Doddie Weir Cup against Wales in Cardiff. Second-row Sam Skinner is set to make his debut, while France-based half-backs Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and Saracens wing Sean Maitland are also set to start. Laidlaw, Scotland's most experienced captain, will lead the side for the first time under coach Gregor Townsend. Pete Horne is promoted from last week’s bench to start at centre, while hooker Fraser Brown, second-row Grant Gilchrist and number eight Matt Fagerson come into the pack.
Frank Lomani, one of the standout performers in Fiji Drua's Australian National Rugby Championship title-winning side, gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Henry Seniloli, while two other members of the World Rugby-funded development team are on the bench in dynamic second-rower Albert Tuisue and fly-half Alivereti Veitokani. Clermont Auvergne's Setareki Tuicuvu wins his first Flying Fijian cap at full-back in an otherwise experienced line-up that features Edinburgh favourite, number eight Viliame Mata. Dominiko Waqaniburotu captains the side from the blindside flank.
- Scotland have won five of the seven tests between the two teams
- Fiji won 27-22 the last time they played each other, in Suva in June 2017
- The average winning margin for Scotland over Fiji at Murrayfield is 16 points, from three tests
- Vereneki Goneva has the chance to become Fiji's all-time record try scorer in his own right. The Newcastle player is currently joint top on 20 tries with Sanivalati Laulau
Scotland can move up one place in victory and fall one in defeat depending on other results. Fiji will climb two places to a new high of eighth if they win and France and Argentina lose. Fiji cannot fall out of top 10, even if they come away from Murrayfield on the back of a defeat.
ITALY (14) v GEORGIA (13)
Italy head coach Conor O'Shea has made 10 changes to the side that was blown away in the second-half by Ireland in Chicago last week. Only Luca Sperandio, Mattia Bellini, Michele Campagnaro, Tito Tebaldi and Abraham Steyn are reinstated from the 54-7 defeat. Steyn moves from flanker to number eight, where he will line-up alongside Jake Polledri and Sebastian Negri. After just one outing leading the team, Campagnaro relinquishes the captain's armband and hands it to experienced hooker Leonardo Ghiraldhini in the continued absence of Sergio Parisse.
Centre Merab Sharikadze will captain Georgia for the first time in this his 58th test match appearance – and his first in eight months following a long-term injury. The Lelos starting line-up boasts 469 caps with Vasil Lobzhanidze accounting for 36 of those appearances at the tender age of 22. Scrum-half Lobzhanidze, the youngest player to play at a Rugby World Cup, is once again joined at half-back by Lasha Khmaladze. Winger Zurab Dzneladze starts a test for the first time in his second cap.
- The teams have only met once before in a full-blown test, Italy winning 31-22 in 2003
- Legendary Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni scored the first of 12 international tries that day
- Italy have only won one of their last 10 tests and Georgia go into the game after back-to-back defeats
- Since their last match in June, Georgia have recruited forward England prop Graham Rowntree as forwards coach
Italy will swap places with Georgia if they win. Georgia can overtake Tonga in victory but Japan are too far in front of them to be caught. It is possible for both teams to fall one place if they lose.
USA (15) v SAMOA (16)
The match will be streamed live on worldrugby.org, click here for more details.
Uncapped winger Gannon Moore takes his place in a side bolstered by the return of overseas-based professionals. Among them are hooker Joe Taufete’e and prop Titi Lamositele who rejoin the forward pack. The backs are complemented by the return of Bryce Campbell and Paul Lasike who form the midfield partnership with captain Blaine Scully selected at full-back. Tim Maupin, a try scorer against the Maori All Blacks last weekend, could make his first test appearance for four years, while David Ainuu and Devereaux Ferris could debut off the bench.
Flanker Jack Lam will captain Samoa for the first time in his 30th test appearance, in the absence of regular skipper Chris Vui, his Bristol team-mate. Bay of Plenty second-row Kane Leaupepe wins his first cap for his country, while four more players – Ray Niuia, Ben Nee-Nee, Iakopo Mapu and Stacey Ili – are in line to make their debuts after being named on the bench. Lam, fly-half Tusi Pisi and second-row Teofilo Paulo are the only survivors from the last meeting between the teams at RWC 2015.
- Samoa have won all five of their previous tests against USA, including a 25-16 triumph in pool play at Rugby World Cup 2015
- The nine-point difference between the two sides was the biggest winning margin in a game between these sides, the previous four games had all been won by seven points or fewer
- The Eagles may have been well-beaten by the Maori All Blacks last weekend but they are on a seven-game winning run in tests in 2018
- Back-to-back wins over Germany in the RWC 2019 Oceania/Europe play-off in June/July ended a run of nine straight defeats for the Samoans
Samoa will be the higher ranked side if they win by more than 15 points but can only gain one place. However, they will fall one if they lose and Romania beat Portugal in the Rugby Europe Championship play-off. The USA Eagles will climb one place to 14th if they win and Georgia lose by more than 15 points or Italy lose.
RUSSIA (19) v NAMIBIA (22)
The match will be streamed live on the Rugby Union of Russia's YouTube channel.
New Russia coach Lyn Jones has handed debuts to two players for his first match in charge of the team. Dmitry Perov is handed the scrum-half jersey and Daniil Potikhanov takes his place on the right wing. Replacement forward Roman Khodin will also win his first cap if he comes on. Vladimir Ostroushko and Alexei Panasenko make welcome returns to the match-day 23 after long absences with Ostroushko lining up at outside centre and Panasenko on the bench.
Jones' fellow Welshman Phil Davies has gone for a mix of youth and experience in his starting line-up. Captain Darryl de la Harpe is one of eight players to have competed at RWC 2015, five of them coming in the backs. Making his debut alongside familiar names such as JC Greyling, Johan Tromp and Chrysander Botha is Western Province academy winger Janry du Toit. A callow-looking pack including debutant Adriaan Ludick, who partners his brother Ruan in the second row, will look to the likes of props, Casper Viviers and AJ de Klerk, and number eight Renaldo Bothma for leadership.
- Russia have won three matches to Russia's two in the head-to-head
- Russia won the last meeting, 31-10, in Montevideo in 2017
- This is the first time the sides have met on Russian soil but it is the fourth test this year hosted by the city of Krasnodar
- Namibia could become the first team to score four or more tries in 13 consecutive tests. The All Blacks have also achieved this feat 12 times but their game against England is a later kick-off
Namibia will climb above Hong Kong into 21st if both sides draw or win, while a win of more than 15 points will see the Welwitschias leapfrog Russia, too. Russia cannot improve their position.
RWC 2019 REPECHAGE - ROUND 1
CANADA (23) v KENYA (28)
The two teams will be announced on Saturday.
- Canada have played at every Rugby World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1987; Kenya have never qualified.
- Canada head coach Kingsley Jones was a member of Russia's coaching staff at RWC 2011.
- Prior to be being appointed the Simbas' head coach in April 2018, New Zealander Ian Snook had never taken charge of a national team before.
Canada will climb one if they win and Hong Kong draw or are beaten. Kenya cannot fall from 28th unless Germany draw with or beat Hong Kong but will climb two places if they win, moving above Canada in the process. Canada could drop as low as 27th if they lose badly and Germany chalk up a big win.
HONG KONG (21) v GERMANY (29)
The two teams will be announced on Saturday.
- This is the first meeting between the teams.
- Germany have conceded 558 points in their last 10 tests.
- Hong Kong haevn't beaten European opposition since a 13-6 win against Portugal in November 2015.
- Germany head coach Mike Ford has been to three Rugby World Cups as a defence coach - in 2003 with Ireland and in 2007 and 2011 with England
Hong Kong cannot improve their position with a victory, but it is possible for them to fall three places if they lose and Namibia, Portugal and Canada all win. Germany will climb two places if they win, or three if Kenya also failt o beat Canada.
RUGBY EUROPE CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFF
ROMANIA (17) v PORTUGAL (24)
Coach Thomas Lievremont hands debuts to three players – all in the backs – for his first match in charge of Romania. Ionul Melinte comes in at full-back, resulting in Catalin Fercu switching to outside-centre, while Vladut Zaharia and Daniel Plai are given an opportunity on the wing and at fly-half respectively. Second-row Adrian Motoc makes his first start in his fourth test for the Oaks. Romania's most-capped captain Mihai Macovei continues to lead the side from the blindside flank.
Centre Thomas Appleton is the most experienced player, with 27 caps, in a matchday squad almost exclusively made up of players playing in the domestic league. Only replacement forward, Rui Branco, plies his trade overseas, at English Championship part-timers Richmond FC. Jorge Abecasis starred for Portugal's U20s in their run tot he final of the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2017 and is one of a number of players to have graduated to senior honours via that route, including three of this year's contingent, José Roque, Rodrigo Marta and José Sarmento, who are all on the bench.
- Romania have won 20 of the 23 tests between the teams with the last of Portugal's win coming in 2011.
- Romania's record win over Portugal is 96-0 in April 1996.
- Romania, winners of the Rugby Europe Championship in 2017, face the prospect of relegation to the third tier of Rugby Europe's system for the first time in their history.
- Portugal have spent the last two seasons outside of the Rugby Europe Championship, winning the Trophy on both occasions.
Romania will drop below Uruguay if they are beaten and the margin of defeat is over 15 points. Meanwhile, Portugal will climb two places if they win and Hong Kong and Canada lose. An emphatic victory could result in Portugal climbing another place to 21st provided Namibia don’t win.
Rounding up this weekend's preview, rapidly-improving Hungary will look to continue their push up the rankings with a victory against Ukraine, while Slovakia take on Serbia and Cyprus host Israel.