SCOTLAND appear set to play two Test matches against Japan and France at Murrayfield this Autumn, as well as an away match against Italy, as part of an eight-team tournament designed to fill an enlarged international window which is being created to breathe much-needed oxygen (cash) into the game after the devastating impact on finances caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
While the final details are still to be finalised, it is understood that Scottish Rugby is on board with the proposals as they stand, with the proviso that everything remains hinged on how the national governments in the participating territories progress with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Six Nations organisers are waiting for a decisive World Rugby Council vote on the extended international window on Thursday, with an announcement on plans for the Autumn expected on 4th August.
Gregor Townsend‘s side will also play their long-awaited final Six Nations match against Wales, which was postponed back in March, at the start of the window on 31st October, with the host venue expected to be Twickenham as the Principality Stadium in Cardiff is currently being deployed as an emergency hospital. Ireland and England will play their outstanding Six Nations matches against France and Italy, respectively, that same weekend.
The one-off eight-team tournament will consist of two pools of four with the each team playing each of the other teams in the pool once on consecutive weekend from 14th to 28th November, before shifting to play-offs involving each team facing their equivalently placed team in the opposite pool on 5th December. The other pool consists of England, Ireland, Wales and Fiji.
Among the key issues still to be decided is the host venues for a number of the games and whether crowds are allowed. RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said last month the union is planning for up to 40,000 fans to be able to attend the Twickenham Tests, pending government approval, although 28,000 has recently been mooted as a more likely maximum.
Such a scenario is less realistic at Murrayfield given that the Scottish Government is taking a far more cautious approach to easing lockdown restrictions than Westminster, with Scottish Rugby hopeful of being allowed a ‘Test crowd’ of around 1,000 spectators.
Autumn Tournament pools:
- Scotland, France, Italy and Japan
- England, Ireland, Wales and Fiji.
Scotland’s provisional schedule:
- 31st October – Wales away in Six Nations – venue TBC but not Millennium Stadium (Twickenham looks likely)
- 7th November – rest week
- 14th, 21st and 28th November – eight-team tournament pool matches against Japan and France at Murrayfield, and Italy in Rome
- 5th December – play-off – opposition TBC