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Teams hope to end Autumn Nations Series on a high
We preview the final weekend of the Autumn Nations Series as Wales take on Australia in Cardiff before England host South Africa at Twickenham.
The Autumn Nations Series 2022 will draw to a close this weekend but there remains plenty to play for at the Principality Stadium and Twickenham.
Wales and Australia will get Saturday’s action underway when they meet at 15:15 local time (GMT) in Cardiff, before England host South Africa at 17:30 local time.
All four teams will want to end the Autumn Nations Series and the year on a high, with vital World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini points on the line.
With less than 10 months left until Rugby World Cup 2023 gets underway, none of the teams will want to take a backward step, especially in Cardiff as Australia and Wales are scheduled to meet in Pool C in France.
The Springboks will head to next year’s showpiece tournament as defending champions, and hooker Malcolm Marx summed up the task facing all four sides on Saturday when discussing the match at Twickenham.
“I don't think any team likes losing. You obviously go onto the field, and you obviously want to give your best and hopefully your best is good enough to win the game,” he said.
“So, I think it’s the same for us as for England. Both [of us] probably want to win this game quite desperately and obviously go into the next year on a positive note.”
Wales, Australia both ring changes
Wales coach Wayne Pivac has made six changes to the side that suffered defeat to Georgia last weekend, as he admitted the hosts are “desperately seeking” a win in Cardiff.
Taulupe Faletau returns at number eight and will win his 100th test cap at the Principality Stadium, while young Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins will make his international debut.
Alun Wyn Jones, the world’s most-capped player, is named in the second-row, while Gareth Anscombe, Rio Dyer and Leigh Halfpenny all come into the backline.
The hosts have won the previous three meetings between the sides, including a 29-25 victory at RWC 2019, but have lost eight of their 11 tests in 2022 and are determined to end a difficult year on a high.
“Some players have come back that were not involved last week. Certainly, it’s a side we’ve selected to get a result which we’re desperately seeking,” Pivac said.
“They’ve gelled well at the start of the week, and we look forward to seeing how we go.”
Australia arrived in Cardiff without several key players, test centurion Michael Hooper becoming the latest to be ruled out of Saturday’s match with concussion.
Coach Dave Rennie has made seven personnel changes to the Wallabies side that lost narrowly to Ireland, top of the rankings, in Dublin last weekend.
Folau Fainga’a starts at hooker, while Fraser McReight and Langi Gleeson come into the back row. Jake Gordon and Ben Donaldson form a new half-back partnership, while Reece Hodge starts at inside centre and Jordan Petaia returns on the right wing.
Since beating Scotland in Edinburgh at the end of last month, the Wallabies have lost three successive matches, to France and Italy, both by a solitary point, and Ireland 13-10.
Rennie said: "We're well aware of a Wales side that will be looking to respond after last week but we're equally as motivated to finish our season on a positive note here in Cardiff."
Du Toit eager to take chance at Twickenham
Prop Thomas du Toit is determined to take his opportunity at Twickenham, having been named among the replacements for South Africa’s meeting with England on Saturday.
Du Toit has been drafted into the Springbok squad having captained South Africa A in their matches against Munster and Bristol earlier this month.
The final match of the Autumn Nations Series gives both sides an opportunity to end a mixed month on a high. England and South Africa have won one match apiece in November so far.
Having been named as part of the famed Springbok ‘Bomb Squad’ for the Twickenham test, Du Toit is keen to make the most of his chance.
“Being able to play, especially with the SA A side, although we didn't get the results, it was still an opportunity to get game time and to play with them on a different level,” du Toit said.
“So yeah, I'm taking this as a massive opportunity for myself. I last played against Wales in the second test [in July], so again, we don't take it for granted, you take it with both hands.”
England coach Eddie Jones, meanwhile, has made four changes to the side that secured a thrilling 25-25 draw against the All Blacks last Saturday.
Saracens club-mates Mako Vunipola and Jamie George have been drafted into the front-row, while Alex Coles is named at Blindside flanker in place of Sam Simmonds.
Cole’s Northampton colleague Tommy Freeman is the only addition to the backline as he comes in on the right wing.
The two teams have met only once since the RWC 2019 final, which the Springboks won. England withstood a late comeback from South Africa at Twickenham last November to win 27-26.
“We have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions,” Jones said.
“We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”