SCOTLAND will play Italy away (at a venue still to be confirmed) on Saturday 14th November, France at Murrayfield on Sunday 22nd November and Vern Cotter’s Fiji at Murrayfield on Saturday 28th November, in Pool B of this Autumn’s Nations Cup campaign – a one-off tournament which has been organised to kick-start international rugby following the Covid-19 lockdown.
Meanwhile, Pool A will consist of England, Ireland, Wales and Georgia (who have been added to the tournament after Japan withdrew due to Covid related concerns last month), with finals weekend on 5th and 6th December consisting of four matches between the teams of equivalent rank from each pool [ie 1st in Pool A versus 1st in Pool B, and so on].
Murrayfield will host one of the finals. That game will feature Georgia, meaning that Scotland will will only return to the national stadium if they finish an equivalent rank to the Eastern Europeans in Pool B. Ireland and England have been guaranteed home finals, while the host venue of the final featuring Wales is yet to be confirmed but will not be played at the Principality Stadium because that venue has been recommissioned as the Dragon’s Heart Hospital for the remainder of 2020.
Broadcast arrangements for the tournament will be announced in due course, but it has been widely reported that Amazon are front-runners to secure the UK rights.
Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay recently expressed hope that crowds of up to 20,000 could be permitted into Murrayfield during the Autumn schedule, however the likelihood of that happening appeared to diminish yesterday when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced new lockdown restrictions in Scotland in response to the escalation in Covid cases in recent weeks – with spectators barred from returning to sports stadia during the next three weeks (apart from small numbers at a few designated test events). The door hasn’t closed on Autumn crowds, but the timeframe is becoming tighter and tighter.
“This is an important first step on the international stage for all the nations involved in what will be an exciting series of matches,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. “The Autumn Nations Cup is a welcome return to test match rugby and we face some familiar opposition in Italy and France and a chance to host Fiji, many of their squad we know well through their connections to Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh.
“We are very much looking forward to working with our players again and taking on the challenge of this new tournament. Our squad depth will no doubt be tested over the four-week period but we’ve been encouraged by a number of strong individual displays so far this season.”
Prior to kick-off of the Nations Cup, Scotland are scheduled to play Georgia in a friendly at Murrayfield on Friday 23rd October, and Wales in their re-arranged final Six Nations match on Saturday 31st October at a venue to be confirmed. They will then have a rest week before the new tournament gets under way.
Autumn Nations Cup fixtures:
13 November at 19:00 – Ireland v Wales – Aviva Stadium
14 November at 12:45 – Italy v Scotland – TBC
14 November at 15:00 – England v Georgia – Twickenham
15 November at time TBC – France v Fiji – TBC
21 November at 12:45 – Italy v Fiji – TBC
21 November at 15:00 – England v Ireland – Twickenham
21 November at 17:15 – Wales v Georgia – TBC
22 November at 15:00 – Scotland v France – Murrayfield
28 November at 13:45 – Scotland v Fiji – Murrayfield
28 November at 16:00 – Wales v England – TBC
28 November at 20:00 – France v Italy – TBC
29 November at 14:00 – Ireland v Georgia – TBC
5 December at 12:00 – Georgia v TBC – Murrayfield
5 December at 14:15 – Ireland v TBC – Aviva Stadium
5 December at 16:45 – Wales v TBC – TBC
5 December at 14:00 – England v TBC – Twickenham
“We are absolutely delighted to formally announce details of the Autumn Nations Cup,” said Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby, the tournament organisers. “A significant amount of time and effort has gone into delivering this new tournament format in testing circumstances and the spirit of collaboration amongst key stakeholders has been outstanding.
“While the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic made the traditional Autumn Test window unfeasible, we remained determined to deliver a unique and compelling tournament proposition which would ensure world class rugby for our fans globally, and competitive matches for players, unions and federations. We cannot wait for the tournament to get underway in November and fans can look forward to some outstanding matches featuring some of the greatest players in the world. We are especially pleased to be joined by Fiji and Georgia and expect them both to be tremendous additions to the competition.”