Rugby Championship and Autumn Nations Cup tournaments planned for later this year
Rugby’s 2020 autumn Internationals schedule taking shape
Since the Wales v Scotland Six Nations match was cancelled at the last minute in mid-March, Test rugby has had to take a backseat as the sport navigates its way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
More pressing issues like struggling finances, training during lockdown and restarting domestic competitions came to the fore in rugby while global events like the 15-a-side summer tours and World Sevens Series were cancelled. Yet there are promising signs regarding the return of international rugby.
Super Rugby competitions in New Zealand and Australia have been followed by the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness Pro14 restarting in August. Now the 2020 autumn Internationals schedule is starting to take shape too.
The World Rugby Council has approved the governing body’s recommendation of a longer international window later this year, with the objective of “optimising recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic for the betterment of the global game at all levels”.
Travel restrictions mean the original November Test schedule, with southern hemisphere sides travelling to Europe, cannot take place, but there are plans for top-level competitions on both sides of the equator.
The Rugby Championship, which features Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, is due to take place over six weeks from 7 November until 12 December in Australia. Matches will primarily be played in New South Wales and there will be one round in Queensland. Fixtures have yet to be confirmed and South Africa’s participation is still dependent of restrictions related to Covid-19.
New Zealand will also host two Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia before the Rugby Championship, on 11 October in Wellington and 18 October in Auckland.
In the northern hemisphere, the Six Nations matches postponed due to coronavirus will take place at the end of October. So in the men’s championship, Ireland will play Italy on Saturday 24 October before the final round of fixtures – France v Ireland, Italy v England, Wales v Scotland – are played back-to-back on Saturday 31 October.
There are also a few one-off fixtures. Scotland will play a ‘warm-up’ fixture against Georgia on Friday 23 October at BT Murrayfield and Wales will do the same away in Paris against France on Saturday 24 October, while England will play the Barbarians at Twickenham on the Sunday, 25 October.
Related: 2020 Six Nations fixtures
The Women’s Six Nations is slightly more complicated because there are six matches to reschedule, including three apiece for Scotland and Italy. The weekend of 23-25 October will see the Scotland v France and Ireland v Italy matches played and the original final-round matches – Wales v Scotland, Italy v England, France v Ireland – will be played the following weekend.
Yet the tournament won’t officially finish until early December, with the Italy v Scotland match due to take place over the weekend of 5-6 December. That match is also doubling up as part of the European qualifying tournament for the 2021 World Cup.
It has also been confirmed that England Women will play a two-Test series against France in November. They will play in France on Saturday 14 November and at Twickenham a week later, in what will be a double-header with the men.
New Zealand’s Black Ferns will also play a three-match schedule, with a Possibles v Probables fixture on 7 November, followed by back-to-back games against the NZ Barbarians on 14 and 21 November.
As for the remainder of the men’s calendar, 7-8 November has been designated as a rest weekend followed by new tournament, the Autumn Nations Cup, from 13 November to 6 December.
England, Georgia, Ireland and Wales are set to be in one pool with Fiji, France, Italy and Scotland in the other. After playing the other teams in their pool, a finals weekend will see the table-toppers in each group play each other as well as 2nd v 2nd and so on.
It is not yet known whether fans will be able to attend these autumn matches but unions will be hoping their governments permit crowds, even if socially distanced, to boost those struggling finances.
Both the Top 14 and Premiership clubs were critical of the proposed Test schedule as it means top players will be missing for domestic duty on certain weekends. For example, the English top flight is due to start its 2020-21 season on 20 November.
However, the World Rugby Council approved the changing 2020’s Regulation Nine window, which governs the release of international players by the clubs, at a meeting on 30 July.
2020 Autumn Internationals Schedule
Here’s a list of the confirmed fixtures, with kick-offs UK & Ireland time.
Sun 11 Oct New Zealand v Australia (kick-off 4.30am, Sky Stadium, Bledisloe Cup) Live on Sky Sports
Sun 18 Oct New Zealand v Australia (kick-off 4.30am, Eden Park, Bledisloe Cup) Live on Sky Sports
Fri 23 Oct Scotland v Georgia (kick-off tbc, BT Murrayfield, warm-up match)
Sat 24 Oct Ireland v Italy (kick-off tbc, Aviva Stadium, Six Nations) Live on ITV
Sat 24 Oct France v Wales (8pm, Paris, warm-up match) Live on S4C
Sat 24/Sun 25 Oct Scotland v France Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations)
Sat 24/Sun 25 Oct Ireland v Italy Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations)
Sun 25 Oct England v Barbarians (2pm, Twickenham, Quilter Cup) Live on Sky Sports Arena
Sat 31 Oct Wales v Scotland (2.15pm, tbc, Six Nations) Live on BBC & S4C
Sat 31 Oct Italy v England (4.45pm, Stadio Olimpico, Six Nations) Live on ITV
Sat 31 Oct France v Ireland (8pm, Stade de France, Six Nations) Live on BBC
Sat 31 Oct/Sun 1 Nov France v Ireland Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations)
Sat 31 Oct/Sun 1 Nov Italy v England Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations)
Sat 31 Oct/Sun 1 Nov Wales v Scotland Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations)
Sat 7 Nov Black Ferns Possibles v Probables (tbc, selection match)
Fri 13 Nov Ireland v Wales (7pm, Aviva Stadium, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Channel 4 & S4C
Sat 14 Nov Italy v Scotland (12.45pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 14 Nov France v England Women (1.15pm, venue TBC, Autumn International)
Sat 14 Nov England v Georgia (3pm, Twickenham, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video & S4C
Sat 14 Nov Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (tbc, invitational match)
Sun 15 Nov France v Fiji (tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 21 Nov England v France Women (midday, Twickenham, Autumn International)
Sat 21 Nov Italy v Fiji (12.45pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 21 Nov England v Ireland (3pm, Twickenham, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video/Channel4
Sat 21 Nov Wales v Georgia (5.15pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video & S4C
Sat 21 Nov Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (tbc, invitational match)
Sun 22 Nov Scotland v France (3pm, BT Murrayfield, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 28 Nov Scotland v Fiji (1.45pm, BT Murrayfield, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 28 Nov Wales v England (4pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 28 Nov France v Italy (8pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sun 29 Nov Ireland v Georgia (2pm, Aviva Stadium, Autumn Nations Cup) Live on Channel 4
Sat 5 Dec Georgia v TBC (midday, BT Murrayfield, Autumn Nations Cup Play-off Final) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 5 Dec Ireland v TBC (2.15pm, Aviva Stadium, Autumn Nations Cup Play-off Final) Live on Amazon Prime Video
Sat 5 Dec Wales v TBC (4.45pm, venue tbc, Autumn Nations Cup Play-off Final) Live on Amazon Prime Video & S4C
Sat 5/Sun 6 Dec Italy v Scotland Women (tbc, Women’s Six Nations/RWC 2021 Qualifier)
Sun 6 Dec England v TBC (2pm, Twickenham, Autumn Nations Cup Play-off Final) Live on Amazon Prime Video
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