England have breezed through the inaugural edition of this makeshift tournament so far, with dominant wins over Georgia and Ireland followed by a hard-fought victory in Wales that secured their place at the summit of Group A.
The Six Nations champions will be overwhelming favourites to extend their winning run to eight matches and claim a second trophy in as many months against a hugely understrength France team missing so many of their key stars.
Due to a prior agreement with Top 14 clubs, Les Bleus players can only compete in three of six international fixtures this autumn and Fabien Galthie’s starting team for today’s final features a combined total of just 68 caps.
Compare that to England, who have named their most experienced team ever, containing no fewer than 813 caps.
Hopefully ‘Le Crunch’ won’t be completely devoid of bite as Eddie Jones’ side look to gain revenge for their opening Six Nations defeat in Paris in February.
The Autumn Nations Cup will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from November 13. Get in on the action by subscribing to Amazon Prime. It costs £7.99 a month, £79 a year or try a 30-day free trial.
With kick-off scheduled for 2pm GMT, follow all the build-up and LIVE match action with Standard Sport’s blog below…
Will Macpherson at Twickenham
Well the fans are very well spread out and obviously aren’t all around the place. But it’s lovely to have them here.
Jones dismisses fears over ‘boring’ rugby
The Autumn Nations Cup enjoyed its most lively action on the penultimate day on Saturday as Fiji finally got a chance to feature after their Covid nightmare.
The rest of the competition has only added to the growing sense of unease that modern rugby union – particularly in the northern hemisphere – is struggling badly to provide engaging entertainment, though Eddie Jones has dismissed those fears as “alarmist and silly”.
“We go through cycles,” said Jones, when asked whether new fans would be put off. “The game is cyclical. We go through attack, defence cycles.
“And that’s the beauty of our game, it doesn’t sit still. So I think all of that sort of talk is massively alarmist and quite silly. The game evolves, changes and we see it evolve and change all the time.”
Will Macpherson at Twickenham
There are fans at Twickenham!
Not many, but there’s a much better feel about the place than recent weeks.
It’s also a beautiful day – and I thought the rugby yesterday was much improved. Is the game on the up again?
Fans back at Twickenham
Great to see fans back at Twickenham for the first time since the Six Nations win over Wales in March…
Watson also says that today’s match can help England gain more crucial experience of finals as they build up to 2023, having suffered a painful defeat to South Africa in the World Cup showpiece in Japan last year.
England were also bested by a much stronger France team in their Six Nations opener in Paris in February.
“It’s a final and there’s a trophy to be won at the end of it – and the previous final we didn’t win,” Watson said.
“It’s about going out there and getting used to these finals and putting our gameplan into force, which is something we felt we didn’t do in the last final. To be honest, I don’t think the lads will be short on motivation at all.
“We obviously lost to France in the Six Nations, which helps the motivation. We also lost the last final we played in.
“We haven’t focused directly on the tactics of the World Cup Final, more that we were favourites going into that game, that we didn’t do what we said we were going to do in the week. There were issues with the training week and stuff.
“They were minute, or things that we thought were minute that probably should have been spoken about that we didn’t speak about. It was probably just an edge, those one per centers in training.”
Watson: Autumn Nations Cup win would be big deal
Meanwhile, Anthony Watson has brushed aside complaints over the weak French team and lack of excitement/profile in the Autumn Nations Cup overall as Six Nations champions England go in search of a second trophy in quick succession.
“It is a big deal,” he said.
“We want to win trophies, irrelevant whether it’s the Nations Cup or the Six Nations, a tournament that’s just been made or one that’s been there for however many years. It’s still an opportunity to win a trophy.
“Putting yourself in finals is where you want to measure yourself as a player. It’s the highest pressure game you can play in and it’s a real test of you as a player and as a team. It’s definitely a big deal, irrelevant of how it’s portrayed and irrelevant of all the talk about what team France are putting out.”
Ojo: England can end difficult year for rugby on a high
Rugby as a whole isn’t the advert it was 12 months ago.
Back then, off the back of the World Cup, England were playing some brilliant rugby and the game in general was on a high.
But now it feels this year has taken the wind out of the game’s sails and it is a long road back to where it once was.
It is difficult to state how hard this year has been across the board. Obviously at the start of it, the Saracens salary cap scandal was the big event that rocked English rugby and made everyone question the values of the game. If our leading light over the past five years has been playing foul, then what does that say about the rest of the league, or the game?
Then the pandemic happened and rugby was frozen, with question marks over if or when the season would be completed. This led to in-fighting around contracts, pay cuts and all sorts of struggles just to keep the sport alive.
Click here to read Topsy Ojo’s latest column in full
Jones: You can never underestimate a France team
Despite France being massively understrength at Twickenham today, Eddie Jones insists Les Bleus are still very much a force to be reckoned with.
“They’re a strong team, a very strong team,” he said. “You just have to look at 2009 when they went on tour to New Zealand, the first game of the three they didn’t have a lot of senior players available and they won that Test and lost the next two.
“We know that the French are capable of great things, they have great depth in the Top 14 and particularly at the moment they are on a project to win the World Cup in 2023, this is just part of the project.
“Of course we respect French rugby. You can never underestimate a French team. History shows on that 2009 tour what they are capable of doing.”
France team news
France are seriously understrength this afternoon, with a prior agreement with Top 14 clubs meaning that players have only been permitted to play in three of the nations’s six fixtures this autumn.
Most of their key stars are missing, with scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud captaining the side on only his fifth appearance.
Meanwhile, Toulouse’s Selevasio Tolofua earns his debut at no8.
In stark contrast to England’s most experienced team, Fabien Galthie’s starting XV this afternoon contains a combined total of just 68 caps.
England team news
England had only made one change to their starting XV from last weekend’s hard-fought 24-13 win over Wales in Llanelli, with the injured Jonathan Joseph’s place on the right wing taken by Bath team-mate Anthony Watson.
However, it subsequently emerged on Saturday that Mako Vunipola would also miss out due to a calf issue, with Ellis Genge taking his place at loosehead and Joe Marler promoted to the bench.
Jones has also shifted his bench to a five/three split between forwards and backs, with Jack Willis dropping out as Max Malins and fit-again Harlequins centre Joe Marchant make the matchday squad.
England’s starting XV is their most experienced ever, boasting no fewer than 813 caps!