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Weekend preview: International tours start and final club run-outs

Weekend preview: International tours start and final club run-outs

Weekend preview: International tours start and final club run-outs

On a weekend where New Zealand and Australia start their northern tours, those players based in Europe will have a last chance to catch the eye before heading off for international duty.

The last of the squads for the Autumn Nations Series were revealed this week as England, France and Ireland all announced the players who will be running out for them in November.

But before they head off to link up with their Test colleagues, they have one more weekend of club action.

First though, let us take a look at the two big international Test taking place this weekend:

Japan hosts Test rugby again at last

The last time a Test match was played on Japanese soil, it was the World Cup final in 2019 between England and South Africa.

On Saturday in Oita, it will be the Brave Blossoms who play host to Australia in a clash between two of the most attacking sides in international rugby.

Jamie Joseph’s Japan will play twice in the Autumn Nations Series, against Ireland and Scotland, and following their entertaining clash with Andy Farrell’s team in the summer, it will be interesting to see how they get on against the Wallabies.

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They will be captained by Lappies Labuschagne, with long-time skipper Michael Leitch among the replacements while a strong Australia team will have Quade Cooper pulling the strings after he overcame a late fitness worry.

Sam is back for All Blacks

The Rugby Championship victors New Zealand are over in the USA to start their tour against the Eagles with the long-awaited return of skipper Sam Cane.

The back-rower has been named on the bench for the clash, with another Sam, Whitelock, captaining the team in Washington.

With a week to go before the Autumn Nations Series opener against Wales, the game gives New Zealand a chance to build up towards a challenging quartet of matches with Italy, Ireland and France also on the schedule.

URC – Irish-Scottish centre battles

Friday night’s action is headlined by a clash between Glasgow Warriors and Leinster, with Danny Wilson’s side looking to end Leinster’s 100 percent record this year.

Wilson has Lions duo Zander Fagerson and Ali Price back in the starting line-up for the first time this season, but it could be the centre battle that is the highlight.

Ali Price

Sione Tuipulotu and Ciaran Frawley will both be hoping for international debuts this November, for Scotland and Ireland respectively, and the pair will line up in the midfield tomorrow. They will have experienced campaigners alongside them in the shape of Sam Johnson and Garry Ringrose, and you can be sure that Gregor Townsend and Andy Farrell will keep a close eye on that battle.

Sticking with the Scots, Townsend will be without the likes of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings for their opening Autumn Nations Series fixture against Tonga, so the fact that Edinburgh will play Blair Kinghorn against Zebre is particularly noteworthy.

Likewise Munster’s decision to play Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne together in the back row for a clash with the Ospreys could be worth keeping an eye on from an Ireland perspective.

Gallagher Premiership – England quintet in action for Tigers

It has been a while since Leicester Tigers had the largest contingent in a full-strength England squad, but under the stewardship of Steve Borthwick, the Premiership giants have started the season like a house on fire.

With five wins from five, they lead the table ahead of a tricky clash with Sale, and five of their number were named by Eddie Jones this week.

That includes the experience of Ben Youngs and skipper Ellis Genge, both of whom start against the Sharks, as does promising young full-back Freddie Steward. With Nic Dolly and George Martin both named on the bench, it is a full house of England Tigers in the matchday squad.

But Sale, even without Faf de Klerk or new England call-up Raffi Quirke, will be out to end that winning start, with Tom Curry starting in the back row and Springbok lock Lood de Jager also back.

Elsewhere, Harlequins will look to bounce back from last week’s loss to Sale when they host struggling Bath, with Marcus Smith again charged with pulling the strings from ten.

Top 14 – Captaincy stakes are high

Fabien Galthié named a 42-man squad for France without too many surprises, but one big question remains over who will lead Les Bleus in the absence of Charles Ollivon.

Five men are in the frame, Toulouse trio Antoine Dupont, Anthony Jelonch and Julien Marchand, as well as La Rochelle Grégory Alldritt and Racing 92’s Gaël Fickou.

For the Toulouse contingent, there is a huge game this weekend as they play host to local rivals Castres in a derby where bragging rights are everything. That is even more the case with last season’s double winners about to lose ten players to France duty from next week.

Fickou, meanwhile, looks set to be absence for Racing’s intriguing battle with Montpellier, but Alldritt should be a key man for La Rochelle on Sunday as they host struggling Toulon.



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