By Alan Dymock
ENGLAND HAVE announced a doozy of a fixture list for next season’s QBE autumn Internationals.
In 2014, England will play New Zealand on November 8, South Africa on November 15, Samoa on November 22 and Australia on November 29. It is a potentially bumpy ride.
The first international match of the season leading up to Rugby World Cup 2015 will see the reigning world champion All Blacks take on the hosts before the beefy Boks soften them up further. Undoubtedly it is a deliberately stern challenge to lead up to the Cup, which starts with England playing the top qualifier from Oceania – almost certainly Fiji – at Twickenham on September 18.
England share a pool with Australia in that tournament and before all of this they will have played New Zealand three times in the upcoming summer tour and once in November 2014. They are not shirking any challenges before the World Cup kicks off.
From today until that day, England will play 18 games against teams currently in the top 10 of the IRB World Rankings – which doesn’t include two games against Italy in the Six Nations in 2014 and 2015 because they are currently 12th in the world – and that also includes five matches against New Zealand in total.
Stuart Lancaster’s side can certainly have no excuses about being undercooked or untested by the time RWC2015 starts and there will also be very little room for experimentation in that period as the big boys come knocking.
How many of these games can the World Cup hosts win?