England are “cautiously optimistic” that fans will be able to attend their Autumn Nations Cup matches after the competition replacing the traditional November programme was officially announced. Eddie Jones’ World Cup finalists have been drawn in Group A alongside Ireland, Wales and Georgia, while France, Scotland, Italy and Fiji comprise Group B.


Opening the tournament devised by Six Nations Rugby in response to the autumn tours being abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic is Ireland’s clash with Wales on Friday, November 13.

England host Georgia a day later before playing their round two Nations Cup fixture against Ireland – also at Twickenham – on November 21. Concluding their group phase is an away showdown with Wales at a venue yet to be confirmed, although it is thought the match will take place at a football ground in London.

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Former Scotland international player and coach Ian McGeechan talks about the British and Irish Lions

The Principality Stadium is unavailable as a result of its use as a hospital during the pandemic. The presence of fans also remains uncertain as a result of the decision by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to limit attendance at test events at 1,000 for the rest of the month, pending review.

“While it has not been possible to go ahead with our four originally scheduled Quilter Internationals, we have worked hard with the Six Nations and other unions to make sure we can deliver an exciting updated schedule given all the challenges Covid-19 has placed on international travel,” Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“We remain cautiously optimistic about the return of fans to the stadium and look forward to hearing from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the detail following the government’s update. We will provide more information in due course.”


Georgia have replaced Japan in the competition that follows the completion of the rearranged Six Nations fixtures after the 2019 World Cup hosts were forced to withdraw because of logistical complications arising from Covid-19.

A broadcast deal has yet to be agreed but the PA news agency understands that Amazon are frontrunners to secure the rights. Finals weekend is scheduled for the weekend of December 5 and 6 with England inked in to face their opponents at Twickenham on the Sunday.

The finals will be based on the pool rankings with each team facing off against the team placed in their same position in the opposite pool.

“We have a new competition format this autumn and are expecting four quality Tests which will be a good challenge for us,” England head coach Jones said, who last week did some coaching at Ealing Trailfinders in the Championship. “It will be great to get back to Twickenham. We have incredible fans and value their support – we want to play tough, vibrant rugby and make them proud.”


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