Rugby, much like every other sport for the majority of 2020, has had to adapt to the notorious ‘new normal.’
At least on these shores games are still being played – albeit in empty stadia as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on sporting schedules.
Whilst titans Australia and New Zealand have faced each other multiple times with the added pressure of a live audience, this is in stark contrast to other teams in the Northern Hemisphere who haven’t been quite as lucky.
The recent Six Nations tournament was forced to see out its remaining games behind closed doors.
Where November is normally occupied with autumn international test matches between teams from all corners of the globe, travel restrictions have meant the likes of the Wallabies, the All-Blacks and the Springboks have all had to refrain from making the trip to Europe in 2020.
However, a new competition has been created in their place – with Fiji and Georgia invited to join the Six Nations sides to make up an eight-team tournament that will take place over the next four weeks.
Autumn Nations Cup format
The structure of the tournament is simple; the eight teams will be split into two separate pools – Group A and Group B. Each team plays the other sides in their group once.
Determined by the rankings going into the final weekend of fixtures, each team will face their opposite number in the opposite group. For example, the leader of Group A will vie with the top of Group B to occupy the overall top spot come the end of the tournament. The team second in Group A will oppose Group B’s second place to judge which side comes second overall, and so on.
England – Fresh off of their Six Nations triumph, Eddie Jones’ England side will be looking to build on their recent success against mostly the same opponents.
Wales – Aiming to bounce back after a disastrous Six Nations campaign in which Wayne Pivac's team lost four out of five games.
Ireland – Head Coach Andy Farrell is set to name a new-look youthful side for Friday’s opener at home to Wales after the disappointing defeat to France a fortnight ago.
Georgia – One of just two teams in the tournament who don’t feature in the six nations, Georgia were not originally scheduled to take part in the Autumn Nations Cup either; however, Covid-related travel restrictions meant Japan were unable to compete.
France- Will be aiming to fulfil their potential after narrowly missing out on this year's Six Nations title.
Italy – Morale around the Azzurri camp is sure to be low as they approach the tournament, having lost five in five during the Six Nations.
Scotland – The Scots will have to see out the competition without two of their leading fly-halves, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, with both ruled out of action for the foreseeable future.
Fiji – One of the underdogs of the competition, Fiji haven’t tasted competitive action since last year’s Rugby World Cup.
Autumn Nations Cup TV coverage
Amazon Prime boasts the rights to the majority of the tournaments coverage – 14 matches out of 16 – making it the first time the tech, delivery and broadcast giants have entered the world of international rugby.
In a bid to ensure a good first impression, Amazon have sought out some of the most respected names in British rugby, including former British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, ex-England skipper Dylan Hartley and Scotland's John Barclay.
If those names weren’t enough, Amazon have also secured the second highest try-scorer in Test history in South African Bryan Habana. Ex-England wing Topsy Ojo, former France flanker Serge Betsen and Racing 92 & Ireland international Simon Zebo all feature as part of Amazon Prime’s star-studded team, which is fronted by Gabby Logan.
Rugby fans wanting to watch the whole of the Autumn Nations Cup will need to be signed up to Amazon Prime.
Channel 4 will also show all of Ireland’s group stage clashes.
BBC Radio 5 Live will provide radio commentary for all games featuring England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Autumn Nations Cup fixtures
The Autumn Nations cup got underway on Friday (November 13) when Ireland and Wales kicked off the first match in the competition's history at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.
The rest of the 15 games will take place between Saturday (November 14) and Sunday December 6. The full fixture list (with TV channels) is:
November 13: Group A – Ireland v Wales (Aviva Stadium), 7pm Channel 4
November 14: Group B – Italy v Scotland (Stadio Artemio Franchi), 12:45pm Amazon Prime
November 14: Group A – England v Georgia (Twickenham), 3pm Amazon Prime
November 15: Group B – France v Fiji (Stade de la Rabine), 3:15pm Amazon Prime
November 21: Group B – Italy v Fiji (Stadio del Conero), 12:45pm Amazon Prime
November 21: Group A – England v Ireland (Twickenham), 3pm Amazon Prime and Channel 4
November 21: Group A – Wales v Georgia (Parc y Scarlets), 5:15pm Amazon Prime
November 22: Group B – Scotland v France (Murrayfield), 3:00pm Amazon Prime
November 28: Group B – Scotland v Fiji (Murrayfield), 1:45pm Amazon Prime
November 28: Group A – Wales v England (Parc y Scarlets), 4:00pm Amazon Prime
November 28: Group B – France v Italy (Stade de France), 8:00pm Amazon Prime
November 29: Group A – Ireland v Georgia (Aviva Stadium), 2:00pm Channel 4
December 5: Georgia v TBC (Murrayfield), 12:00pm Amazon Prime
December 5: Ireland v TBC (Aviva Stadium), 2:15pm Amazon Prime
December 5: Wales v TBC (Parc y Scarlets), 4:45pm Amazon Prime
December 6: England v TBC (Twickenham), 2:00pm Amazon Prime
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