Autumn Nations Cup - Ireland v Wales: Team news, fixtures, kick-off times, TV and more

All you need to know as new tournament gets underway at Aviva Stadium on Friday night

It has been less than two weeks since Ireland's Six Nations title hopes were crushed at the Stade de France, but already it's nearly time for Andy Farrell's side to get back in the saddle.

This weekend sees the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup get underway - a tournament devised to fill a hole in an international calendar which had been blown apart by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ireland were due to welcome world champions South Africa to Dublin on Saturday, but with southern hemisphere sides unable to travel to Europe for their traditional November Test matches, they will instead be facing more familiar opposition over the coming weeks.

Fiji and Georgia are joining the usual Six Nations cast, with the eight sides split into two groups of four and playing four Tests between now and December 6th.

For Ireland, it is a chance to steady the ship after that Halloween defeat in Paris, and perhaps an opportunity for Farrell to experiment before the 2021 Six Nations Championship gets underway in just 12 weeks time.

Here is everything you need to know about the Autumn Nations Cup.

What is it?

The inaugural edition of a new tournament - the Autumn Nations Cup.

Who is in it?

Ireland are joined by England, Wales, Scotland, France, Italy, Fiji and Georgia.

How does it work?

The eight sides have been split into two groups - A and B. Each team in each group will play each other once, before playing a final fixture against the team who finish in the same position in the opposite group. So, the winner of Group A plays the winner of Group B, the runners-up will play each other, third plays third and bottom plays bottom.

Who’s in each group?

Group A

Group B

What are the fixtures?

Round One
Ireland v Wales, Friday November 13th, Aviva Stadium (7pm)
Italy v Scotland, Saturday November 14th, Stadio Artemio Franchi (12.45pm)
England v Georgia, Saturday November 14th, Twickenham (3pm)
France v Fiji, Sunday November 15th, Stade de la Rabine (3.15pm)

Round Two
Italy v Fiji, Saturday November 21st, Stadio del Conero (12.45pm)
England v Ireland, Saturday November 21st, Twickenham (3pm)
Wales v Georgia, Saturday November 21st, Parc y Scarlets (5.15pm)
Scotland v France, Sunday November 22nd, Murrayfield (3.15pm)

Round Three
Scotland v Fiji, Saturday November 28th, Murrayfield (1.45pm)
Wales v England, Saturday November 28th, Parc y Scarlets (4pm)
France v Italy, Saturday November 28th, Stade de France (8.10pm)
Ireland v Georgia, Sunday November 29th, Aviva Stadium (2pm)

Finals weekend
Georgia v TBC, Saturday December 5th, Murrayfield (12pm)
Ireland v TBC, Saturday December 5th, Aviva Stadium (2.15pm)
Wales v TBC, Saturday December 5th, Parc y Scarlets (4.45pm)
England v TBC, Sunday Decembet 6th, Twickenham (2pm)

How can I watch it?

The Autumn Nations Cup will be a landmark with Amazon Prime Video the tournament’s main UK broadcaster. In Ireland, RTÉ will be showing all of Ireland’s fixtures. Channel 4 also have access to all of Ireland’s games, while the rest of the fixtures can be accessed by Irish viewers via Premier Sports. You can also follow all of the action as Ireland take on Wales on Friday via the Irish Times liveblog, which will be up and running from around 6.30pm.

So, what are Ireland’s prospects?

First up for Farrell's side is the visit of a beleaguered Welsh side who are on a run of four-consecutive defeats under new head coach Wayne Pivac. That run includes a 24-14 defeat to Ireland in Dublin on February 8th - a game which feels like it belongs to another era.

If Ireland can negotiate the first hurdle then they will head for the acid test of England at Twickenham knowing victory would make them hot favourites to top Group A. Recent history suggests that will be a tall order however, with a bruising 24-12 defeat on February 23rd lingering long in the memory.

Ireland’s final group fixture is against Georgia in Dublin - just the fifth meeting between the sides and the first since 2014. Farrell’s side will be odds-on to finish with a bang at the Aviva Stadium before the finals weekend.

Team news

Farrell has wasted no time in giving James Lowe his Ireland debut, with Leinster's big Kiwi winger taking the number 11 jersey on Friday night. His compatriot Jamison Gibson-Park will also make his full international debut in the halfbacks alongside Johnny Sexton. Chris Farrell returns to join Robbie Henshaw in midfield, with Hugo Keenan retained after his fine start to life in a green jersey.

Up front Rónan Kelleher returns from injury to join Cian Healy and Andrew Porter in the frontrow, with Iain Henderson back from suspension to pack down alongside James Ryan. Billy Burns could make his international debut off the bench while Keith Earls also returns to the matchday 23.

Ireland: Jacob Stockdale; Hugo Keenan, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris. Replacements: Rob Heffernan, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Keith Earls.

A slow start for Pivac

Life after Warren Gatland was never going to be plain sailing for Wales, with Pivac taking over following the end of last year’s Rugby World Cup. He started with an emphatic Six Nations win against Italy in Cardiff but defeats to Ireland, France and England followed, with Scotland then securing a rare win on Welsh soil on the final day of the Championship on October 31st.

Pivac's arrival was supposed to see Wales transition away from the physical playing style which saw them flourish under Gatland and move to a more traditional, attacking brand of rugby - something which can't be achieved overnight. Pivac will head into Friday's clash in Dublin without a defence coach following the recent departure of Byron Hayward.

Recent history

Ireland and Wales have been worthy opponents in the Six Nations over the past decade - Ireland have won four of their last 10 Championship meetings and Wales have won five, with one 16-16 draw in Dublin in 2016. During that period, both sides have been crowned champions three times apiece.

What’s the betting?

Autumn Nations Cup winner
England 11-10
Ireland 4-1
France 5-1
Scotland 11-2
Wales 9-1
Fiji 33-1
Italy 250-1
Georgia 500-1

Group A winner
England 4-7
Ireland 2-1
Wales 5-1
Georgia 500-1

Group B winner
France 4-6
Scotland 6-4
Fiji 13-2
Italy 100-1

Match betting
Ireland 2-5 Wales 7-4 Draw 20-1 (Ireland -7 10-11)
Italy 11-4 Scotland 1-4 Draw 20-1 (Scotland -11 10-11)
England 1-1000 Georgia 50-1 Draw 20-1 (England -36 10-11)

Who’s on the whistle?

France's Mathieu Raynal is in charge of Friday night's clash at the Aviva Stadium.

How’s the weather looking?

Friday is set to be a dry day in Dublin, with temperatures reaching 10 degrees during the day and no rain forecast. For November, that’s positively tropical.

Can I go?

Nope - all games are still being played behind closed doors.

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