Excitement is building for the November internationals as the best teams from across the globe arrive in Europe for a packed schedule of men’s and women’s test matches.
Not only is this the first time in two years that many of these teams will have had the opportunity to play in Europe due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but intrigue is added to several match-ups with both Rugby World Cup 2021 and Rugby World Cup 2023 on the horizon.
There promises to be some cracking test rugby played over the next few weeks and below we looked into six matches that will surely set pulses racing.
France v New Zealand, Stade de France, 20 November (kick-off: 20:00 GMT)
Some titanic match-ups will take place in November, but none bigger than the 62nd test meeting between France and New Zealand. A sneak preview of the opening match of RWC 2023, on the same Stade de France turf that will welcome them in less than 22 months’ time, there is plenty to play for in Paris.
France have built a young, attacking line-up under coach Fabien Galthié. Unlucky not to hold on against Wales in the Rugby World Cup 2019 quarter-finals, Les Bleus have since finished second in consecutive Six Nations Championships, with exciting talent including Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud to the fore.
Galthié will be keen to test his side against the All Blacks, who head into November on the back of another Rugby Championship title. France have a reputation of being New Zealand’s bogey side at Rugby World Cup, but their recent record against them is poor, having not beaten the All Blacks since 2009. Now would be a great time to put that right.
The countries’ women will also meet in November as they contest back-to-back fixtures on 13 and 20 November less than a year out from Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022. Les Bleues have enjoyed recent success against the Black Ferns, winning their previous two meetings in Grenoble and San Diego.
Scotland v South Africa, Murrayfield, 13 November (kick-off: 13:00 GMT)
Webb Ellis Cup holders South Africa head to Europe on the back of a morale-boosting win over the All Blacks and hoping to pick up where they left off in their series win against the British and Irish Lions. The Springboks will take on England in a repeat of the RWC 2019 final at Twickenham on 20 November but it is the fixture against Scotland which is perhaps their most intriguing assignment.
Another November international that foreshadows events to come at RWC 2023, it brings together two teams that have been drawn together in Pool B in France. Following the RWC 2019 final, the Springboks had to wait 18 months for their next test match due to COVID-19 restrictions. In that time Scotland beat France (twice), England and Wales to put their disappointing campaign in Japan firmly behind them.
Coach Gregor Townsend has got Scotland firing, but historically they do not have a great record against South Africa. Scotland have won only five of their 29 test meetings with the Springboks, the last of which came in 2010. That was a 21-17 victory secured by the boot of Dan Parks, and the hosts will need current fly-half Finn Russell on form if they are to seal a repeat against the world champions next month.
Wales v Australia, Principality Stadium, 20 November (kick-off: 17:30 GMT)
News of Quade Cooper returning to the Wallabies’ number 10 jersey and pulling the strings as Australia enjoyed back-to-back victories against South Africa and Argentina won’t have gone unnoticed in Wales. Cooper was at his mercurial best during a thrilling 30-26 win for the Wallabies in Cardiff eight years ago and has lost only one of his six appearances against next month’s hosts.
Wales lost 13 tests in a row against Australia between 2009 and 2017, but have won the teams’ last two meetings and will want to prove they have put their unwanted streak behind them when they meet at the Principality Stadium next month. The importance of the fixture has only been heightened by the fact that the teams have been drawn together in Pool C for RWC 2023, the fifth successive time they will meet in the tournament’s pool stage.
Both teams look in good shape ahead of the match. Australia won four successive matches to finish second behind the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship and Wales claimed this year’s Six Nations Championship to put a disappointing 2020 behind them.
Italy v Uruguay, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 20 November (kick-off: 13:00 GMT)
Uruguay made history earlier this month as they overturned a first-leg deficit to beat the USA and qualify for RWC 2023 as Americas 1. Los Teros’ prize for their 50-34 aggregate defeat of the Eagles was a place in Pool A alongside hosts France, New Zealand, the Africa 1 qualifier and next month’s opponents, Italy.
The match in Parma therefore gives Los Teros an opportunity to test themselves against one of their RWC 2023 rivals and also measure their recent improvement. Victory against the USA in Montevideo nine days ago was Uruguay’s fourth in six test matches since the last Rugby World Cup in Japan and lifted them to 16th in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings. Italy, who sit 14th, have won only one of their 14 matches since the start of 2020.
November’s match will be only the fourth meeting between the sides and the first since 2007, when a Matteo Pratichetti hat-trick helped the Azzurri to a 29-5 victory at the Estadio Parque Central del Club Nacional. It was Italy’s third successive win in the fixture, the biggest of which came in their first meeting, a 49-17 victory at Stadio Tommaso Fattori in 1999.
🆚 New Zealand— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 5, 2021
🆚 New Zealand
3 teams. 4 matches. This is going to be fun!#RedRoses
England v New Zealand, Franklin’s Gardens, 7 November (kick-off: 14:45 GMT)
Women’s world champions New Zealand will play their first test matches in more than two years in October and November, as the clock continues to tick down to RWC 2021. The Black Ferns could not have asked for a more difficult schedule in Europe, either, as they prepare to make their return to the international stage with back-to-back double-headers against England and France.
The Black Ferns will play their 100th test, against England in Exeter on 31 October before the teams head to Northampton a week later as they step up their preparations for next year’s tournament in New Zealand. England will be without World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2019 Emily Scarratt through injury but coach Simon Middleton can still call on the experience of captain Sarah Hunter, Marlie Packer, Lydia Thompson and Poppy Cleall.
England have won 14 out of 14 tests played since the Black Ferns last took to the pitch, but have beaten New Zealand only once in their previous eight meetings. Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore has selected a 34-player squad for the tour that includes 11 survivors from New Zealand’s RWC 2017 final win over England in Ireland, including Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gold medallists Kelly Brazier, Stacey Fluhler and Portia Woodman.
USA v Canada, Infinity Park, 1 November (kick-off: 18:00 MDT)
Fans will get their first glimpse of a new women’s cross-regional international competition next month when the USA and Canada take part in the soft launch of the Pacific Four Series. Created to act as one of the principal qualification routes for the top tier of WXV, the tournament will also feature Australia and New Zealand from 2022 onwards.
COVID-19 restrictions dictated that the Oceania nations were not able to compete this year, but there is plenty to look forward to for fans of the North American rivals. It is 34 years now since Canada and USA first played each other and the opening match in Colorado on 1 November will be the 40th women’s test contested between the two sides.
Canada have won five of the team’s previous six tests, including the two most recent meetings, in San Diego in November 2019, by an aggregate score of 71-27. The pandemic has ensured that those matches are the last either team has played on the international stage, making these tests integral on the road to RWC 2021, where the teams have been drawn together in Pool B.