Over the coming weeks, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France will take on the best the southern hemisphere has to offer, including world champions South Africa, the mighty All Blacks and an Australian team confident that it is turning a corner.
Argentina, too, will be in the UK as they look to make further progress under the tutelage of Michael Cheika, while Japan and Fiji’s thrilling brand of rugby is always a joy to watch, even if conditions at this time of year in the northern hemisphere are sometimes more suited to a pragmatic approach.
For all of the teams competing in the Autumn Nations Series, the matches will form a vital part of their preparation for Rugby World Cup 2023 which is now less than a year away.
Last year the north held sway, underlining their superiority in the wins/losses column with a clean sweep of victories over their Rugby Championship counterparts in the final weekend of the series.
But Australia get an early opportunity to strike a retaliatory blow for the south this Saturday, and potentially set the tone for the rest of the series when they take on Scotland at Murrayfield.
Murrayfield has been a fallow field for the Wallabies of late with Scotland winning the last three meetings at their home ground.
While a record 53-24 win for Scotland was included in that run, historically this fixture has been closely-fought with seven of the last eight encounters ending with six points or less between the teams.
Scotland are not able to move any higher than their current position of sixth in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini if they claim an unprecedented fourth win in a row in the fixture.
However, the teams would swap places if Australia can win there for the first time since 2016, with the Wallabies jumping up to sixth and the Scots dropping down to ninth.
Japan ready to put All Blacks to the test
While not classed as part of the Autumn Nations Series, Japan’s meeting with the All Blacks earlier in the day – which will be played in front of a 65,000-capacity crowd in Tokyo – does still count towards the rankings.
Since putting a record Rugby World Cup score of 145 points on Japan in 1995, New Zealand have faced Japan three more times at this level, winning them all.
For former dual international Jamie Joseph, who shared his 29 caps between the countries, it is always a memorable occasion whenever Japan meet the All Blacks, but even more so now that he is the head coach of the Brave Blossoms.
Kiwi Joseph has coached against the land of his birth once before as head coach of Japan, four years ago in Tokyo. New Zealand won 69-31.
This will be only Japan’s fifth test of the year, having won their series with Uruguay 2-0 (34-15 and 43-7) and lost to France 2-0 (42-23 and 20-15) in June and July, respectively
New Zealand have played almost twice as many tests as Japan in 2022 but their record of five wins and four defeats is one they will be desperate to improve on.
New Zealand have not lost five in a calendar year this century, the last time being in 1998 when they lost to Australia three times and South Africa twice.
Should that happen this weekend with defeat to Japan, New Zealand will fall one place in the rankings to fifth. Japan would need other results also to go their way though if they are to improve on their current ranking of 10th.