A year can be a long time in rugby…
This time last year, England were heading towards a shock early exit from their home World Cup. Today, just 10 months into Eddie Jones tenure as coach, they lie second in the world rankings and are chomping at the bit at the prospect of extending their unbeaten run on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.
England’s annual Autumn Internationals have long been one of the sport’s most celebrated showpieces and this year’s schedule looks set for some real fireworks. With South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia all due to run out at Twickenham, it’s a good job the home side have found some serious form.
It’s fair to assume that any realists at England Rugby would have accepted two wins out of four when these fixtures were announced late last year, but a 6 Nations Grand Slam and an unbeaten tour of Australia have changed the landscape dramatically and nothing less than a clean sweep of victories will suffice for the home fans.
Engage are offering clients corporate hospitality packages for these sell-out events, so, to whet your appetite, here is a bit of background information on all the match-ups.
England vs South Africa, Saturday 12th November
The South Africans look to be in a transitional period, with a new coach trying to establish his systems in a squad that, despite it containing many established world-class players, has a fresh look about it.
England will be buoyed by the Boks’ losses to Ireland and Argentina in recent months, but there is no prouder rugby nation and the chance to put one over England in a city with nearly 60,000 South African residents, many of whom will be in the ground, will be all the motivation they need to produce a typically fierce display.
The form book will count for little when the first whistle blows, so England will need to be on their mettle if they want to start the series with a win.
England vs Fiji, Saturday 19th November
It’s great to see Fiji, the newly-crowned Olympic sevens champions, playing on the biggest of stages against a ‘tier 1’ nation. As with all the Pacific Island teams, you can guarantee they will field a side dripping with pace and talent who will aim to play scintillating rugby.
If the Fijians tackled any harder, Eddie Jones would be inundated with sick notes from the England players’ mothers. As it stands, with even bigger tests against Argentina and Australia looming on the following weekends, Jones’ team may feature a few exciting young talents, further ensuring a thrilling rugby spectacle.
England vs Argentina, Saturday 26th November
Argentina have been a major force in world rugby for a number of years and they will present as big a threat to England’s chances of a perfect autumn record as Australia and South Africa.
Taking place ten years after the Pumas’ last win in London, the huge Argentine forward pack and mix of talented and hard-running backs will test England in every department.
It’s also worth noting that, on October 8th, Australia and Argentina were at Twickenham contesting the first ever Rugby Championship fixture to be held in the UK, an experience that will have familiarised both teams with the stadium and lessened England’s home advantage for the approaching games.
England vs Australia, Saturday 3rd December
There has been no greater contrast in fortunes since the World Cup than between England and Australia. The Aussies, in getting to the final, earned Michael Cheika the title of World Rugby Coach of the Year and England, in failing to progress from their group, earned Stuart Lancaster his P45.
Fast-forward a year and England have a Grand Slam and a 3-0 test series victory in Australia under their belts, while Cheika has overseen 6 consecutive losses, one short of the Australian record held for over ten years by none other than England’s Eddie Jones.
Having suffered a couple of maulings from the relentless All Blacks and a recent loss to South Africa, Australia will be desperate to build on a strong showing against Argentina, but we can’t yet be sure of the mind set in which they’ll arrive at Twickenham. One thing that is a given is that nothing could motivate them more than the chance of revenge for the summer’s home whitewash at the hands of Eddie Jones and his boys. Expect an absolute epic.
Click here for details of Engage’s Autumn International hospitality packages.