The main talking points ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup finale

Eddie Jones is on the verge of guiding England to their second piece of silverware of the autumn
Eddie Jones is on the verge of guiding England to their second piece of silverware of the autumn (PA Wire)
13:14pm, Mon 30 Nov 2020
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England and France will go head to head to decide who will be crowned champions of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the main talking points ahead of next weekend’s tournament finale.

More joy for Jones?

Since losing last year’s World Cup final to South Africa, the only blot on England’s copybook was defeat to France back in early February. Eddie Jones’ relentless side have gone on to notch seven successive Test wins during an impressive revival. They will be looking to round off a more-than-satisfactory year by avenging defeat at the Stade de France and adding another trophy to their recent Six Nations triumph.

French farce

France coach Fabien Galthie has limited selection options for the game with England (PA Wire)

England’s path towards lifting further silverware has been simplified by the internal politics that mean France must field a shadow team at Twickenham. After an agreement was struck in response to the threat of legal action from France’s Top 14 clubs, Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthie has only been able to pick each player a maximum of three times across his country’s six autumn matches. Those strict constraints have resulted in a 31-man French squad containing only two players – Brice Dulin and Uini Atonio – with caps totals in double figures for this weekend’s climax.

Welsh woe

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, pictured, has endured a difficult year since succeeding Warren Gatland (PA Wire)

Victories over minnows Italy and Georgia are all Wayne Pivac has to show from a woeful first year as Wales head coach. For the New Zealander, 2020 will end as it began with a clash against the Italians, as both countries seek to avoid being the competition’s worst-performing Six Nations side. While a win for the 2019 Grand Slam champions in Llanelli is expected and will do little to assuage mounting pressure, it could provide a springboard for Pivac’s misfiring side as they attempt to turn a corner in the new year.

Will wooden spoon match go ahead?

Georgia will be eager to build on their vastly-improved display produced in Sunday’s defeat to Ireland. However, their fixture against Fiji – scheduled to be played on Saturday at Murrayfield – remains in doubt as each of their opponents’ Group B matches were cancelled due to Covid-19 protocols. Fiji defeated the Lelos 45-10 in the pool stage of last year’s World Cup and they would undoubtedly welcome an opportunity to repeat that result following an incredibly frustrating few weeks.

Finish with a flourish?

Organisers deserve credit for staging an alternative to the traditional end-of-year tours by the southern hemisphere giants but the tournament has been more a test of endurance than a rugby feast for the eyes. The continued absence of supporters due to coronavirus restrictions has significantly decreased the spectacle and contributed to a series of limp contests. Will the tournament finish with a flourish? France’s selection issues suggest not.

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