Autumn internationals preview: England boss Eddie Jones must go easy on tired Lions while Wales face toughest month of all home nations
- England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are preparing for Autunm internationals?
- Wales have the hardest task — facing New Zealand, Australia and South Africa
- But England coach Eddie Jones can afford to rest some of his established stars
Ahead of the?Autumn internationals, Sportsmail's Chris Foy runs the rule over each of the home nations...
Eddie Jones has so much juggling to do this month, he could join the circus. England's head coach must try to keep various balls in the air over coming weeks.
Jones knows that balance is needed, between vital experimentation and maintaining momentum, between resting over-worked Lions and not weakening his team in key areas, and between Test intensity in training and being mindful of the recent injury epidemic.
There is no perfect equation. Jones is aware that he can't ignore the bottom line of results, or the bigger picture of gearing up for the World Cup in two years' time.
England coach Eddie Jones would be wise not to overexert the Lions players within his squad
It is unthinkable for England to lose any of their three autumn Tests. Such has been the scale of their resurgence, it would be a monumental shock for Twickenham to witness a home defeat this month.
Argentina are free-falling amid a state of tactical limbo, Australia will be weary and without their back-line talisman, Israel Folau, and Samoa cannot hope to compete.
Furthermore, England do not necessarily have to lose to accelerate their development through harsh lessons. Jones can ensure this is an autumn of evolution and progress, as part of his juggling act.
For instance, he can rest the main Lions for two of the three Tests each, to give challengers an audition on the grand stage at Twickenham. Instead of Owen Farrell at 12, let Henry Slade show his footballing class. Instead of Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop, unleash Leicester's Ellis Genge. Likewise, Maro Itoje's place at lock can be filled by Nick Isiekwe or Charlie Ewels.
Out wide, Jonny May should start when fit, along with Denny Solomona or Semesa Rokoduguni, freeing up Anthony Watson for an audition at full back.
Jones can afford to rest Owen Farrell (right) to give?Henry Slade (left) a chance this month
The scenario is more complex at hooker, as Jamie George was the Lions' choice, so he needs a rest, but equally he must start for England at some stage. Dylan Hartley remains the man to captain the side, but there is no reason why George can't wear No 2 one weekend.
Scrum dominance is a target this month, as is a tightening of the defence. In Argentina back in June, England launched a high-tempo, off-loading game and that process must continue. Meanwhile, evolution will be apparent in the back row, where rookies Sam Underhill and Tom Curry are vying at openside — and Itoje or Courtney Lawes could operate at blindside, as part of the new 'back five' ethos.
Jones can keep juggling. He knows what he's doing. All those balls should stay in the air this month.
It's been a turbulent build-up for the Scots, whose casualty list includes Greig Laidlaw, Richie Gray, Fraser Brown, Sean Maitland and Matt Scott, while John Hardie is facing investigation over allegations of cocaine use and Magnus Bradbury is suspended after a head injury on a night out.
Nov 11 v Samoa
Nov 18 v New Zealand
Nov 25 v Australia
Coach Gregor Townsend won't take Samoa lightly after the summer loss to Fiji, and New Zealand will have too much firepower whoever they choose.
So the Scottish campaign will stand or fall on the result against Australia, who Scotland beat in Sydney in June.?
Ireland's officials face the prospect of losing out to South Africa in the tussle to host the 2023 World Cup, but on the pitch the players can make the Springboks suffer next weekend.
Nov 11 v S Africa
Nov 18 v Fiji
Nov 25 v Argentina?
Joe Schmidt's side, No 4 in the world, have joined England in taking giant strides towards smashing the southern stranglehold.
They will be without some leading lights in Garry Ringrose, Josh van der Flier, Jared Payne and Jamie Heaslip, while Simon Zebo has been dropped.
But Connacht's Kiwi centre Bundee Aki has been called up after qualifying and Ireland will again trouble all-comers with a tenacious pack creating a platform for the creative hub of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton to wreak havoc
Having called up?centre Bundee Aki, Ireland should be confident of winning all three games
After being in Lions mode last season, Wales head coach Warren Gatland is back in the day job and facing the toughest autumn campaign of the four home nations.
All three of the southern superpowers are coming to Cardiff over the next month and Wales must break the cycle of regular failure in these November windows.
They have lost 12 Tests in a row against Australia and haven't beaten the All Blacks since 1953, although the Springboks have been conquered on their last two autumn visits.
The absence of injured Lions captain Sam Warburton is a setback, but Ross Moriarty's return to fitness is timely and Taulupe Faletau has been in supreme form for Bath. The same can be said for Rhys Priestland, but Dan Biggar is sure to continue at 10.
Nov 11 v Australia
Nov 18 v Georgia
Nov 25 v New Zealand
Dec 2 v South Africa
No George North means a deserved opening out wide for Steff Evans and the pre-series intrigue has focused on the likely selection of a second playmaker at inside centre, signalling a faster attacking approach. Wales should beat Georgia and one of Australia or the Boks, but the All Blacks' scalp will remain stubbornly out of reach
Warren Gatland's Wales?have a tough task — facing New Zealand, Australia and South Africa
THE LAST WORD
It was quite some turnout at Twickenham on Saturday, with 63,000 fans there to see the All Blacks pushed hard by a Barbarians team featuring an array of talented Kiwis who would have wished they were on the other side.
The gallant efforts of the invitational club did much to reinforce the whole concept for the foreseeable future, while South African flanker 'Kwagga' Smith made his name with a dynamic performance which suggested that he has the game-breaking class to transfer from Sevens into the Test arena.
Meanwhile, Bristol savoured the brilliance of their ex-All Black representing the Barbarians, Steven Luatua — and the prospect of the flanker and Charles Piutau joining forces next season will surely fast-forward the West Country club's re-emergence as a domestic force.
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