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When are this week’s Autumn Nations Cup team announcements?

When are this week’s Autumn Nations Cup team announcements?

When are this week’s Autumn Nations Cup team announcements?

The destination of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup trophy will be decided this weekend as the competition comes to a thrilling conclusion.

Three matches on Saturday kick off Finals Weekend, beginning with Georgia taking on Fiji – with the latter set to play for the first time in the tournament after suffering Covid-enforced cancellations to all three group games – at BT Murrayfield.

Next up, the two second-placed teams go head-to-head in Dublin as Ireland look to end 2020 how they started it – with a win over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland triumphed 19-12 in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Six Nations and two sides who also met on the same day back in February, Wales and Italy, round off Saturday’s action at Parc y Scarlets.

Wales will be looking for a similar performance to that which saw them win 42-0 the last time these sides met but the visitors will be keen to put in a statement and finish their year on a high.

Sunday brings the grand finale as England take on France at Twickenham. The two sides are both unbeaten in the competition to date having topped their respective groups and the clash will also see the welcome return of fans to the home of English rugby, with 2,000 supporters set to attend.

With plenty at stake, the eight head coaches have some big selection decisions to make in the coming days. Here’s when they will be announcing their teams this week…

THURSDAY

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ENGLAND

England are 80 minutes away from adding the Autumn Nations Cup trophy to the Guinness Six Nations crown they wrapped up in October and Eddie Jones will be eager to ensure their unbeaten post-restart run continues.

He will announce the squad tasked with earning silverware at 11am on Thursday ahead of a game England’s head coach has described as ‘our grand final of 2020’.

George Ford returned to the starting XV for Saturday’s win at Wales, meaning Owen Farrell shifted to inside centre, and it will be intriguing to see whether Jones sticks with an unchanged 10/12 axis.

Jones also had a six-two split in favour of forwards on his bench in Llanelli and has a decision to make on how best to try and combat a talented, if potentially raw, French outfit.

WALES

Wales showed signs of progress in a losing cause against England on Saturday and will hope to end a mixed tournament on a high against Italy this weekend.

Wayne Pivac will name his team on Thursday lunchtime and there could be further opportunities for the likes of James Botham, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit, three of seven Welsh players to have made international bows this autumn.

Centre Johnny Williams will hope for a chance to build on his first international score while wing Josh Adams has fond memories of Saturday’s opponents, having scored a hat-trick in February’s Guinness Six Nations opener.

SCOTLAND

Gregor Townsend’s men have had longer than they may have liked to stew on their narrow defeat against France in Round 2 having seen last weekend’s clash with Fiji cancelled.

They now go in search of a first win in Ireland since 2010, when a last-gasp Dan Parks penalty secured a 23-20 success, as the two second-placed sides from the group stage meet.

Duhan van der Merwe has been a star of Scotland’s autumn and his Edinburgh clubmate Jaco van der Walt could be handed an international debut of his own on Saturday having also now qualified on residency grounds.

The fly-half, the only addition to the squad which took on France, will battle it out with Duncan Weir for a starting berth in the continued absence of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings – Townsend will reveal who makes his starting XV on Thursday lunchtime.

ITALY

Italy have not won on the field in 2020 – the victory in their column during the group stage came as a result of a walkover against Fiji – but the Azzurri will hope it is a case of better late than never as they travel to Wales on Saturday.

Franco Smith’s side performed well against France in the first half of their final group game and led after Carlo Canna’s smartly-worked score but a yellow card for Jacopo Trulla proved costly as the hosts pulled clear after the break.

Smith will now look to select a side capable of causing more problems than they did in February’s 42-0 defeat and he will name his squad on Thursday.

Michele Lamaro and Cristian Stoian made their debuts off the bench at the Stade de France and will hope to feature once more, while Paolo Garbisi – one of the breakout stars of the autumn – will look to end an impressive string of displays in style.

IRELAND

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was far from impressed with his side’s performance despite their victory over Georgia on Sunday and we’ll find out at 4.30pm on Thursday how that has affected his team selection for this weekend.

Ulster’s Billy Burns scored his first international try against Los Lelos but later came off injured, while Ireland are also awaiting updates on Rob Herring and Will Connors, who must go through return to play protocols having been taken off for a head injury assessment.

Leinster wing Hugo Keenan’s try on Sunday took his tally to three in five Tests and he will look to show his scoring instincts once more, while clubmate James Lowe will hope for another chance to shine having missed out on selection against Georgia.

FIJI

It has been a difficult month for Fiji, who were looking forward to showcasing their talent against the northern hemisphere’s rugby heavyweights but have instead had to watch from their hotel rooms after three successive cancellations enforced by a Covid-19 outbreak in the camp.

They are now preparing for Saturday’s clash with Georgia as they look to end a frustrating period on a high at BT Murrayfield.

Nine Fijians were due to win their first cap against France having been named in Vern Cotter’s matchday squad for the scheduled Round 1 fixture and they will be hoping to do so at long last this weekend.

Three of those potential debutants were back-rowers and Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavula and Kitione Kamikamica will hope Cotter keeps faith with them for the 7th/8th-place play-off when he announces his selections on Thursday.

GEORGIA

Georgia also announce their team on Thursday as they look for a victory to cap the progress made in recent weeks.

Los Lelos have steadily improved over the course of their Autumn Nations Cup campaign and put in their best performance yet against Ireland on Sunday, with Giorgi Kveseladze’s excellent score bringing Georgia their first points of the competition.

Kveseladze is part of an exciting back division which also includes Brive half-back duo Tedo Abzhandadze and Vasil Lobzhanidze, who will look to continue their impressive partnership at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.

FRIDAY

FRANCE

Fabien Galthie has named a 31-man training squad to prepare for Sunday’s final and he’ll announce on Friday lunchtime which of those players will line up at Twickenham.

He is unable to call on any of the starting XV that beat England in Paris in February’s Guinness Six Nations opener due to an agreement between the national team and Top 14 clubs that no player will feature in more than three internationals over the autumn, while star fly-half Romain Ntamack is absent through injury.

That has given the 31-man squad an experimental look, with seven uncapped players bidding for a debut. Only two players – Uini Atonio and Brice Dulin – have double-figure cap tallies to their name.

But even a much-changed French side contains plenty of quality, as Italy will attest to after Saturday’s final group game. Three of the try scorers from Round 3 – Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere and Sekou Macalou – are included and there will be an array of French young guns looking to make a name for themselves at Twickenham.

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