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Autumn Nations Cup gets underway as Wales hosts Ireland today (Friday, Nov. 13) at 2PM ET.
The four-week spectacle brings together eight of the world’s top 14 teams in what should prove to be the marquee rugby event of 2020. Split into two pools of four, the eight teams will play their respective pool members over the course of the first three weeks. When pool play concludes, the teams will match up in Round 4 with whomever finished in the same position in the other pool (1st vs 1st, 2nd vs 2nd, 3rd vs 3rd, 4th vs 4th).
Some statements will be made, some coaches will be under pressure, and some players will thrive under the spotlight. The Autumn Nations Cup is a special occasion that will bring plenty of special moments.
Overall, the full tournament-style approach to the Autumn Internationals will be a major hit. In the past, teams have gone on tour and played a round of one-off test matches, but having a declarative winner will be fun for players and fans alike this year. Outside of the Rugby World Cup, there is no tier-1 international rugby competition which stages a title game.
The championship bout will be a huge success and could pave the way for similar formats down the line.
Players To Watch
France scrum-half Antoine Dupont has been the world’s best player in 2020, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue that form into the Autumn Nations Cup. Expect him to lead the French charge once again with electricity and accuracy.
Other Contenders: Romain Ntamack (France), Owen Farrell (England), Tom Curry (England), Charles Ollivon (France), CJ Stander (Ireland), Jamie Ritchie (Scotland), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Semi Radradra (Fiji), Josh Adams (Wales), James Ryan (Ireland), James Lowe (Ireland), Virirmi Vakatawa (France), Maro Itoje (England)
Coaching Hot Seat
Wales’ Wayne Pivac will find himself squarely on the hot seat after the Autumn Nations Cup concludes. After five straight losses, pressure is already mounting on the new coach to turn in some results. Sadly, those won’t come to fruition at the ANC and the Kiwi will be under intense scrutiny heading into 2021.
England will win Pool A, but it won’t come easy. The English have an easy first match against Georgia, but after that must take on Ireland and then Wales. Despite a three-game double-digit win streak against Ireland, England will have a tough time putting the men-in-green away, who are eager to put the Six Nations behind them. After that, England will finish pool play with arch-rivals Wales. Even though Wales has lost five in a row, the Welsh always elevate their game to play England, and you can expect the same in three weeks’ time.
Ireland will win its other two games to finish second in the pool, with Wales taking third and Georgia fourth.
France will handle business in Pool B, dispatching of Fiji, Scotland, and Italy fairly comfortably. Their meeting with Fiji will produce some fireworks, but Fiji won’t be able to keep pace with France’s scoring. The Scotland match became a lot less tricky when it was announced Finn Russell and Adam Hastings would both miss the tournament, meaning they won’t have the scoring to hang in with France. Finally, the Italy match won’t be close, and might be a chance for France to get some newer bodies onto the pitch.
Scotland will take second in the group, then Fiji, and then Italy fourth.
In what will be a cracking final, France will emerge victorious over England in the Autumn Nations Cup final. The two sides’ first meeting in 2020 was a barnstormer, when France raced out to a 24-0 lead only to see England score 17 unanswered to lock up a precious bonus point.
France may have won on the day, but it was England who ultimately had the last laugh. Their bonus point at the death proved to be exactly enough to see them lift the Six Nations trophy at the end of the year.
This time around, France will win on the day and lift the trophy.