QBE Autumn Internationals: England v Fiji
Saturday November 10
Sky Sports 1 2.30pm
International rugby is back, and with the southern hemisphere’s finest in action across the home nations over the next four weeks, attention turns to the IRB rankings.
That’s because the World Cup pools for 2015 are being drawn on December 3, just two days after the final international of 2012, and everyone will of course be desperate to be seeded as high as possible to avoid potential pitfalls – otherwise known as the All Blacks.
First up at Twickenham are the hard-hitting Fijians. Captain Chris Robshaw has indicated (in our interview on pages 54-55) that the honeymoon period is over for Stuart Lancaster, and England’s record of two wins and a draw from the past 15 against their upcoming quartet of opponents speaks for itself.
The test for Lancaster, then, is to coax his side to the next level. Danny Care and Toby Flood (pictured) find themselves leading from pivotal positions – they will be key to England discovering a balanced gameplan between expansive bums-out-of-seats rugby and the pragmatism that brings results.
Injuries mean it will be fascinating to see whether Lancaster gives the likes of Tom Youngs, Joe Launchbury and Freddie Burns a chance. Two wins from four would be nice; three would be great. Elsewhere tomorrow, an injury-ravaged Ireland need a big performance against South Africa (BBC Two 5.30pm) – particularly because they play only one more Test this month and sit seventh in the IRB rankings – while Wales start their autumn at home to Argentina (BBC One 2.30pm). Then, on Sunday, the Scots welcome the All Blacks to Murrayfield (BBC One 2.30pm).
Scotland actually have the best record against the Tri Nations sides since the 2007 World Cup, having won three and lost three. On the flip side, they’ve lost by an average of 32 points in their previous five games against the All Blacks. It could be a long afternoon north of the border.