The annual autumn rugby internationals take place over the next month where once again the best from the northern hemisphere will test themselves against the might of the southern hemisphere teams.
This year, transition is still the key word for England and coach Stuart Lancaster has many decisions to make before the first game against the Wallabies on the 2nd November. They then face tough fixtures against Argentina and the All Blacks, who they recorded a famous 38-21 win over in the respective fixture last year. The main dilemma may be over the selection of Chris Robshaw who, despite being international captain, has come under scrutiny for his performances and his place in the side may potentially be under serious threat.
Another selection conundrum may emerge over who to play on the wing with the rise to prominence of London Wasps winger Christian Wade over the last year. Wade has gone from strength to strength both domestically and internationally over the last 12 months and his progress was rewarded with a call up to the British and Irish Lions squad in the summer, where he made his debut against the Brumbies in one of the warm up games. Chris Ashton would be the experienced option but with his try-scoring record hardly prolific and Wade’s growing potential, he may find his starting place is in jeopardy.
From a Welsh perspective, last year’s autumn internationals were a disaster in terms of both results and performances. Their four matches produced four defeats topped off by an embarrassing loss to Samoa. The vibrancy that had embodied the Welsh team for the previous years was absent and the side looked completely dejected compared to their victorious Six Nations campaign earlier in 2012.
This year has brought far greater success though as they comfortably retained their Six Nations title, including a record 30-3 win over England. The success of the players was highlighted by the percentage of Welsh representatives in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad for their summer tour of Australia. Nevertheless, Wales will have to do without Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert for the entirety of their autumn tests as both have long term injuries.
The Welsh will however be boosted by the news that their enigmatic number eight Toby Faletau has been passed fit after recently injuring his neck playing for Newport-Gwent Dragons. Gatland is expected to recall Sam Warbuton as captain after he temporarily lost the role during Wales’ tour of Japan.
Other key fixtures include Scotland welcoming South Africa and Australia to Murrayfield whilst Ireland face the Kiwis on the 24th November. Potentially the stand out tie of the month may, however, be when New Zealand visit the Stade de France on the 9th November; the French have been the one team who have consistently pushed the All Blacks over the last decade.