Final dates have been confirmed for the November Autumn Test schedule for 2021. This covers men’s International matches across five continents and begins in late October, before the traditional November window opens for all sides.
As stated by World Rugby; ‘the confirmed program seeks to optimize competition for established and emerging unions and is a result of strong cross-stakeholder collaboration to navigate a challenging and dynamic environment in relation to respective COVID-19 travel and quarantine protocols’.
An exciting set of fixtures to look forward to later this year!
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) October 6, 2021
Confirmed: 2021 November Autumn Test schedule
While the majority of Tier One nations preparing and selecting squads to square off for the November Autumn Test schedule, fans across the ‘rugby globe’ are expecting the very best. An annual tradition for most, as sides from outside of Europe head towards the Northern Hemisphere for many of the most competitive matches of the calendar.
Teams like Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and New Zealand all have a good base of International rugby under their belt. In fact, the World Champion Springboks could be could the most exhausted national side of any sides aiming for the Autumn test schedule. So the question is; how will that factor hinder their British Isles Grand Slam hopes? Meeting Wales, Scotland, and England in successive weeks is probably one of the toughest draws of all visiting nations.
Not that the Wallabies have it easy either. They open their schedule in October with a challenge in the Showa Denko Dome in Oita against Japan. Not a simple task at all, as Jamie Joseph has had plenty of time to build up the Brave Blossoms heart after a close-run match against the British and Irish Lions in June.
Then Australia goes on their own triple-treat of a British national team’s feast. Dave Rennie must presume that the winning run by his group will continue against the home nations, so you might call those two sides’ schedules as ‘who can win….and who can win better’ than the other?
Argentina on the other hand looks to more ‘continental meats’ as their platter of fixtures serves up a treat of matches. Los Pumas are bitterly disappointed with their Rugby Championship tour to Australia. What better way to correct that embellishment, than to face France, Italy, and Ireland over three weekends. And to repair some faith by Pumas’ fans around the world.
Lastly comes New Zealand. Choosing to accept every opportunity allowed, will see them travel yet again via a stop off in the lucrative United States market. Home of past games in Philidelphia, and the infamous loss to Ireland in Chicago, the All Blacks brand will be on show in Washington DC against the USA Eagles. The easier opening round of five successive games, it leads into a Welsh fixture in Cardiff that should be a good barometer of how New Zealand ranks against the Six Nations champions.
— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) October 11, 2021
Opening UK clash for the All Blacks outside November test window
Some have already suspected this WALvNZL match will be overshadowed by unavailable home players’. Not being within the exact ‘test window’ has forced players to heed club demands – not all but, many of the stars whom All Blacks fans would most like to compare their XV with, could not play. Louis Rees-Zammit being one; commitments to Gloucester will unsurprisingly see him in ‘red and white’ on that weekend.
A concern for rugby fans yet, a component of professional sports that Welsh and Kiwi administrators must surely have realized when scheduling this early clash. Or, were Wales too eager to earn crucial revenue ahead of 6Nations preparation?
The New Zealand group then go on to play Italy in Rome, before two back-to-back bangers. Ireland at their fortress has a second opportunity to win on home soil. Possibly a bigger ask than in 2018, who is to say that 13 tests into their calendar, a battle scared All Blacks team may appear ‘beatable’. They will be able to peak for this moment (after they warm up with USA and Japan).
All that plays out before the most anticipated clash of the Autumn test series – France v New Zealand. This one match could define how far France has come. The French team could gel for this huge clash in Paris, which will provide the biggest boost in [virtually] a decade. However, there is no tougher opponent for any side in November, than the All Blacks. Yes they are at the end of their season it is just never as easy as it seems when it comes to the men in black.
No, the Kiwi team is not the focus for all. A Springbok clash is ‘somewhat’ a chance to topple the World Champions. South Africa did not tour last year, so this is an opportunity that coaches like Eddie Jones, must take with full-strength teams.
Acknowledgment must also go on many other nations who pin their future hopes on Autumn Test schedule matches. Assembling sides in the Northern Hemisphere will be Fiji. Their own clashes go hand-in-hand with the South Seas team’s progression towards the Rugby World Cup 2023; as is it for sides like Uruguay. Their recent defeat of the United States has secured them a rare World Cup berth [at the expense of Canada]. Their ‘A’ team plays in the Americas Pacific Challenge series in October, which will provide a valuable follow-up for many potential RWC squad members.
Uruguay are heading back to the World Cup once again. 🇺🇾 pic.twitter.com/NWkAf5gK2P
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 10, 2021
European Rugby Championship clashes will see a valuable RWC position up for grabs. Netherlands, Russia, Portugal, Romania, and Spain all clash for crucial seeding places before final pool clashes set for 2022. Included in Europe are powerhouse Georgia. The most credible nation outside of the Six Nations, their fixtures against France and Fiji on successive weekends is the best form of competition – even if it is often ‘too little’ to create momentum towards first-class fixtures in 2022.
Conclusion – what value has the November window have in 2021?
Some will say ‘more than ever’ although, for both practical and emotive reasons. Interrupted calendars in 202 did little for many nations. Most accomplished a minimal portion of their pre-determined schedule. Scotland lost out on a beneficial tour of New Zealand, and the away fixture list has been a poor outcome for Argentina.
2021 is going to offer near to full stadiums, with many opportunities for a shared slice of revenue that the majority are desperate for. Kit and supporter gear alone is paramount to the survival of sides like Australia, Fiji, and Georgia. So when you see crowds decked out in their colours, remember that it all helps the Tier 2 sides more than it does for heavyweights like England. For the top 10 nations, some rankings places are on the plate even if they may be taken with a pinch of salt these days.
But for fans, the flood of fixtures is like mana from the rugby-gods. So as many games as there are, expect the crowds and TV/Livestream audience to lap it up!
Look here for our Women’s Autumn Test window feature here, as Last Word on Rugby continues to bring equity to International rugby union representation.
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