In rugby circles, the month of November is synonymous with international action. It’s when some of the world’s best teams travel to Europe to play other top-level sides in what has now become the Autumn Nations Series.
Broadcast via Amazon Prime Video, it is hoped the series could be a stepping stone towards a new future for rugby.
England’s autumn will see them take on Argentina on Sunday followed by Japan, New Zealand and South Africa on the three following Saturdays. Wales play the All Blacks this weekend while teams such as Samoa, Georgia and Fiji will all get game time.
And a year out from the World Cup in France it’s one of the final times fans and coaches will be able to experience cross-hemisphere rugby.
But beyond that tournament it is expected that the match-ups we see in the Autumn Nations Series could become more common with the introduction of a global season, whereby the northern and southern hemispheres play across a similar time frame.
“We’ve never been closer [to a global season],” Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel said last week. “It’s a complex thing, there’s a lot of multi-dimensionals. Collaboration is key, there’s a common goal to get this through.”
Legendary All Black fly-half Andrew Mehrtens agrees the sport’s competitions must incorporate new nations.
“I’m convinced that we need to embrace Japan,” he said. “They play a really quick style of rugby. They’re always a physical challenge but not always that bulky challenge.
“I’d love to see a world where there’s a global season where you end up getting cross-pollination.
“I am happy South Africa are playing in their own zone and Argentina’s future needs to be in the Americas.”
This month’s rugby actions pits the best against the best and provides a good marker ahead of the World Cup.
England, Ireland and France come into the autumn off the back of successful summer tours against Australia, New Zealand and Japan while Wales and Scotland will be looking to avenge series losses against South Africa and Argentina.
“The biggest thing for [South Africa] when you have an autumn series like you do now… is there are players in Japan who haven’t played for five weeks,” former Springbok Bryan Habana added.
“All of a sudden they need to come back and face the No1 side in the world [Ireland, this weekend].”
The Emerald Isle’s outstanding series win down in New Zealand catapulted them to the summit of the world rankings, but they cannot be complacent.
Against the world champions in South Africa, the zippy Fijians and closing with Australia, their autumn is one which will challenge different aspects of their game at different times.
“It could be a time to test some new players but results will be at the forefront of the mind, and picking up a win against the world champions would be unbelievable,” Simon Zebo, former Irish international said.
“Then you’d look to blood some players against Fiji and get some guys an opportunity. It will be a tough series but one that could boost our confidence.”
This is as close a model to a global series that rugby has, and could be the centrepiece of a new synchronised calendar. But with that deal still a distance away, Novembers continue to be packed with high quality international oval ball action.
Zebo, Mehrtens and Habana will feature on Autumn Nations Series matches exclusive on Prime Video