Autumn Nations Cup gives everything to play for with nothing on the line

But coronavirus intervened, and a decision was taken to revert to the old system and have the pools locked in from the world rankings on 1 January 2020, meaning not a single Test match between the last World Cup and the next one will contribute towards the draw for France 2023. It was a decision made in good faith, with the international calendar completely torn up by Covid-19 that would have had a significant impact on the number of matches that contributed towards the rankings, but it rules a significant number of matches rather redundant when it comes to real meaning.

With the Scottish Rugby Union becoming the latest union this week to confirm that no fans will be allowed to attend matches this autumn, there will be the same hollow feeling that surrounded last weekend’s final round of the Six Nations, were even the smallest little thing such as a muted try celebration provides an uncomfortable reminder of the situation surrounding us.

With Twickenham, Murrayfield and the Aviva Stadium closed to the public, and the Principality Stadium completely out of action as the Welsh Rugby Union continue their admirable provision of their services in battling the pandemic, fans will have wanted to soak up the action among their own at pubs and clubs across the country, only for coronavirus to intervene and leave nations locked down in their own living rooms, with many restricted to the offering on Channel 4 of Ireland’s four pool games.

For many, sport will be a welcome outlet of entertainment over the trying period ahead, but challenging it to replace that horrible empty feeling that emerged last weekend is set to be a challenge that not even the most ambitious of unions can achieve over the course of the next four weeks.

Autumn Nations Cup fixtures

Round 1

Ireland vs Wales, 7pm on 13 November – Channel 4

Italy vs Scotland, 12.45pm on 14 November – Amazon

England vs Georgia, 3pm on 14 November – Amazon

France vs Fiji, 3pm on 15 November – Amazon

Round 2

Italy vs Fiji, 12.45pm on 21 November – Amazon

England vs Ireland, 3pm on 21 November – Channel 4 and Amazon

Wales vs Georgia, 5.15pm on 21 November – Amazon

Scotland vs France, 3pm on 22 November – Amazon

Round 3

Scotland vs Fiji, 1.45pm on 28 November – Amazon

Wales vs England, 4pm on 28 November – Amazon

France vs Italy, 8pm on 28 November – Amazon

Ireland vs Georgia, 2pm on 29 November – Channel 4

Finals Weekend

Georgia vs TBD, 12pm on 5 December – Amazon

Ireland vs TBD, 2.15pm on 5 December – Amazon

Wales vs TBD, 4.45pm on 5 December – Amazon

England vs TBD, 2pm on 6 December – Amazon

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