The end-of-year internationals return for a second weekend as fans of Test rugby try to gauge how their side’s preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup are going.
Ahead of a busy Saturday ESPN predicts which team are set for a big night, which player will shine and where your attention should be amid a packed fixture list.
Player to watch
Jonny May (England). It has been an eventful week for the Leicester wing, who revealed he had turned down an invitation to North Korea just as club and international colleague George Ford was discussing the pros and cons of being his housemate. But May ended it in the England starting XV for the visit of Australia, and boasted that he is in the shape of his life as he looks to counter the Wallabies’ back-three threats. His start to life at Leicester — where he has scored 10 tries in his nine matches — would suggest he was not being hyperbolic. The Wallabies cannot afford to take their eyes off him.
Game of the weekend
England vs. Australia, Saturday, 3.00 p.m.
England coach Eddie Jones welcomes his countrymen to Twickenham with his crown possibly slipping for the first time during his 22-month reign. His frustration with his below-par side was broadcast to millions as England toiled against Argentina last weekend, and while the hosts won that game — as they have done in 20 of the 21 Tests they have played under Jones — there is a sense that the Wallabies will provide the toughest test of the team’s credentials since the last World Cup. Michael Cheika’s side beat England at Twickenham during that tournament and return in fine form, and with real hope of handing their hosts a first home defeat since Jones took over.
Wales vs. Georgia, Saturday, 2.30 p.m.
Following another defeat to Australia last weekend, Wales coach Warren Gatland has rung the changes for the visit of Georgia. He will fully expect the team he has picked — a mixture of old heads and young, exciting talent — to emerge victorious, and rightly so. But this is a huge opportunity for the Georgians, who have hit a glass ceiling beneath the Six Nations over recent years. The Lelos are keen to prove they can compete with the world’s best, and will know that Wales have often struggled against Tier 2 nations in November. Embarrassment was saved against Japan in Cardiff last year, can Georgia go one better this time around?
Big weekend for…
France and South Africa. Relations between the two countries has become strained over the last two weeks as France were awarded hosting rights for the 2023 Rugby World Cup despite the South Africa bid receiving the recommendation of an independently-audited report. That will mean little to the players, though, as two teams at a crossroads go head-to-head in Paris. The hosts have stuck with the starting XV that lost to New Zealand last weekend, and will hope they can find some form against the struggling Sprinbgoks. South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has called on experienced heads in Duane Vermeulen and Handre Pollard to kickstart his and his team’s fortunes, but will it be enough?