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All you need to know as the Autumn Nations Series begins this weekend

All you need to know as the Autumn Nations Series begins this weekend

All you need to know as the Autumn Nations Series begins this weekend

The Autumn Nations Series finally gets underway this weekend with two blockbuster fixtures on Saturday getting proceedings underway, here’s all you need to know ahead of the first whistle.

Who is playing and when?

Round 1 begins at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon as Scotland take on Tonga, with the opener kicking off at 2.30pm.

That match is immediately followed by a titanic clash at Principality Stadium in Cardiff as Wales host New Zealand, with the winners of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations facing the newly-crowned Rugby Championship victors in a repeat of the Rugby World Cup 2019 third-place play-off.

Team News

Scotland have four debutants in their starting XV as prop Pierre Schoeman, lock Jamie Hodgson, winger Rufus McLean and centre Sione Tuipulotu have all been selected from the off by Gregor Townsend.

Another four could win their first caps off the bench with Marshall Sykes, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson all itching to make their international bows.

Ali Price returns from British & Irish Lions duty to co-captain the side from scrum-half and he is partnered by Blair Kinghorn at No.10 with flanker Jamie Ritchie the other man charged with leading a new-look side.

Tonga are fielding six debutants of their own, including experienced prop Loni Uhila, perhaps best known for his time at Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14.

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They are captained by Toulon scrum-half Sonatane Takulua, who English fans will remember for his spell at Newcastle Falcons.

Wales have plenty of injuries and unavailability to contend with but still have named an incredibly strong side as they welcome the All Blacks to town.

Wales v New Zealand preview

Gareth Anscombe, who represented New Zealand at Under-20s level, will win his first Wales cap for two years at fly-half after returning to full fitness following a lengthy knee injury.
His opposite man is his old Baby Blacks colleague Beauden Barrett, who will win his 100th cap in the No.10 shirt.

Elsewhere, at hooker for Wales Ryan Elias will start as a late replacement for Ken Owens, who failed a fitness test.

Full teams

Scotland v Tonga

Scotland: 15. Darcy Graham, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Sione Tuipulotu, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Rufus McLean, 10. Blair Kinghorn, 9. Ali Price (cc); 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Jamie Hodgson, 5. Rob Harley 6. Jamie Ritchie (cc), 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Matt Fagerson

Replacements: 16. Stuart McInally, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Oli Kebble, 19. Marshall Sykes, 20. Luke Crosbie, 21. Nick Haining, 22. Jamie Dobie, 23. Ross Thompson

Tonga: 15. James Faiva, 14. Atunaisa Manu, 13. Malietoa Hingano, 12. Vaea Vaea, 11. Walter Fifita, 10. Kurt Morath, 9. Sonatane Takulua (c); 1. Loni Uhila, 2. Maile Ngauamo, 3. David Lolohea, 4. Halaleva Fifita, 5. Setofano Funaki, 6. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7. Fotu Lokotui, 8. Valentino Mapapalangi

Replacements: 16. Suia Maile, 17. Jethro Felemi, 18. Toma Taufa, 19. Dan Faleafa, 20. Onehunga Havili, 21. Mateaki Kafatolu, 22. Aisea Halo, 23. Navarre Haisila

Wales v New Zealand

Wales: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 8 Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Ben Thomas

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara; 1 Joe Moody, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Nepo Laulala, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 8 Ardie Savea.

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Sevu Reece

Key Points

Alun Wyn Jones will make history when he leads his side out at Principality Stadium, winning his 149th cap for his country, overtaking legendary New Zealand flanker Richie McCaw’s record of 148.
But if it is going to be a joyous occasion for Jones then Wales must break a winless record of 31 games against the All Blacks, stretching back 68 years.

Wales will have the support of a sold-out home crowd as they look to bounce back from the summer series defeat to Argentina.

Their head coach Wayne Pivac will be hoping to get one over his home nation, although he will have to do without a number of experienced injured internationals, including George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.

New Zealand had their ten-match winning streak ended by South Africa before thrashing the USA 110-14 in Washington last weekend and will hope to get their month-long stay in Europe off to a flyer.

For Scotland, all eyes will be on Blair Kinghorn playing in the unfamiliar role of fly-half rather than his usual berth in the back three.
If all eight of the debutants included in the matchday 23 get on then it will be the highest number of debuts in a Scotland side for 69 years, when eight players picked up their first caps against France in 1952.

Scotland v Tonga preview

Fans will be back at Murrayfield after 602 days away and will be hoping for a show against Tonga, who are in a rebuilding phase.

The Pacific Islanders capped 23 new players in the summer and have a further ten new boys on tour with them now.

They will be hoping to bring back memories of a famous 21-15 win in Aberdeen against Scotland back in 2012, the last game of Andy Robinson’s time in charge.

Where can I watch it?

For fans in the United Kingdom, Amazon Prime Video is the place to be with both Scotland’s clash with Tonga and Wales’ match against New Zealand available on the opening weekend.

If you are in the Republic of Ireland, then you can catch all the action on RTÉ.

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