Preview: Wales v New Zealand

New Zealand will be keen to finish their 2017 campaign in style when they face Wales in what promises to be a thrilling end-of-year Test in Cardiff on Saturday.

The All Blacks have won all their matches on their European tour - against the Barbarians, France and Scotland - but were pushed all the way by a determined Scotland side at Murrayfield last weekend before claiming a 22-17 victory.

That result came at a cost as they lost the services of their inspirational number eight and captain, Kieran Read, as well as second-row Luke Romano, who both sustained injuries.

Despite playing at home, Wales are up against the world champions and Warren Gatland's charges will be overwhelming underdogs.

What makes their task more daunting is the fact that these sides have played each other 33 times since 1905, with 30 victories to the All Blacks and just three wins to Wales, with the last of those registered way back in 1953.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who will captain the side in the absence of Read, feels the fact that Wales haven't beaten his country in more than 50 years has no relevance on this weekend's Test.

"It's one of those things, history's history," he said.

"Once it's happened you can't change it, it's happened. We're always just looking forward to the next game and that's this week.

"We are aware of it to a point but we don't put a lot of time and energy onto that. We're just trying to energise the current group and looking forward to this week. We feel that's the best way to go and have a good performance."

Taking on the All Blacks, who are the game's leaders in attack, is a formidable task and Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards highlighted the enormity of the task at hand, paricularly for him.

"Let's be honest, I have got a pretty tough job this week, probably one of the toughest jobs in world sport to be the defence coach against the All Blacks," he said.

"But you know me, I am up for a challenge. Hopefully on Saturday we can put pressure on through our line speed, but there is a lot more to defending than just having line speed. There are a lot of different aspects to it.

"One of them is what Scotland did very well. They held the ball for 60 percent of the time. They had 60 per cent territory and 60 per cent possession.

"If we can do that, I will be very happy. Even though the All Blacks only had 40 per cent possession, they still scored three tries and were still very dangerous, but obviously starving them of the ball is one way of keeping their attack quiet."

These sides met last year in New Zealand with the All Blacks claiming a 3-0 series whitewash.

The last encounter between the two sides was in Dunedin in June 2016, which the All Blacks won 46-6. The last Test in Cardiff was in November 2014, with New Zealand claiming a 24-16 win.

Players to watch:

For Wales: Tongan-born back-row Taulupe Faletau is a player who will be important to the home side's cause in this encounter. The Bath stalwart is well known to the All Blacks as he was one of the standout performers for the British and Irish Lions during their drawn series with the world champions in New Zealand earlier this year. Faletau has a superb skill-set which allows him to link superbly with his backs and if he builds up a head of steam with ball in hand, he will be difficult to stop. He does not shy from doing the hard work though, especially on defence where he also has a high work-rate. 

For New Zealand: After receiving criticism in New Zealand for several below par performances earlier this year, All Black midfielder Sonny Bill Williams has come to the fore with some fine showings in recent weeks. A sin binning against France in Paris overshadowed an impressive all-round showing from the dual code international and he was arguably the world champions' best attacking player in the narrow win against Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend. Williams be determined to show that he is still a force at the highest level by delivering a polished display in this fixture.

Head-to-head: The duel between the two captains will be a fascinating ones as Kieran Read's absence from the All Blacks' side means both Wales' Alun Wyn Jones and New Zealand's Sam Whitelock will lead their respective countries from the second row. While their decision-making and leadership will be crucial, both are brilliant lineout operators and their prowess in this facet of play should not be underestimated. Whoever comes out on top at the set-piece, will in all likelihood also finish on the winning side.

Previous results:

2016: New Zealand won 46-6 in Dunedin
2016: New Zealand won 36-22 in Wellington
2016: New Zealand won 39-21 in Auckland
2014: New Zealand won 34-16 in Cardiff
2012: New Zealand won 33-10 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 37-25 in Cardiff
2010: New Zealand won 29-10 in Hamilton
2010: New Zealand won 42-9 in Dunedin
2009: New Zealand won 19-12 in Cardiff

Prediction: Although Wales will give a good account of themselves, the world champions will be determined to finish their 2017 campaign in style. New Zealand to win by 12 points.

The teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Preview: Scotland v Australia

Scotland will be looking to do a rare double over Australia when the sides meet at Murrayfield on Saturday in what is sure to be a thriller.

It won't be an easy task against a Wallabies outfit certainly in far better shape than they were in that 24-19 defeat in Sydney.

The Wallabies were shocked in the June internationals and were even given an almighty scare by the Italians. This prompted head coach Michael Cheika to instigate a four-week training camp prior to the start of the Rugby Championship focusing on physical and mental conditioning.

After getting 60 put on them by the All Blacks in their first Rugby Championship encounter, Cheika's men bounced back with credible draws against the Springboks and a narrow 35-29 defeat to the All Blacks in which they were leading two minutes from time only for World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett to score a last-gasp game-clinching try.

And in the third and final Bledisloe match of the year the Wallabies' comeback was finally complete when they broke their 15-match winless run against the All Blacks.

They followed this up with a convincing victory over Wales but were brought crashing down to earth with a 30-6 defeat against England at Twickenham last Saturday.

Scotland, meanwhile, are coming off the back of an admirable 22-17 defeat to the All Blacks in which they almost snatched a late victory were it not for a great piece of last-ditch defending by that man Barrett again on Stuart Hogg.

The Scots have enjoyed a massive two years and even British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admitted that it was tough on Scotland who he felt were unlucky not to have more representation in the squad named to tour New Zealand.

Groundbreaking wins over Wales and Ireland in the Six Nations shows the axis of power is slowly shifting in British rugby with Scotland closing the gap on their counterparts quite significantly.

And if that win over the Wallabies in June didn't make the rugby world sit up and take notice, it certainly made the Aussies wary of the threat the Scots pose ahead of what should be a great game at Murrayfield.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: Keep a eye on Stuart Hogg who is in brilliant form. If he is able to make the right decisions from full-back he can be a thorn in the opposition defence with his sheer pace, power and ability to run excellent lines.

For Australia: Will Genia has been terrific for the Wallabies since making his return from France. The 29-year-old could just be at the peak of his powers and seems to be an even better player than the one who departed Aussie shores.

Head-to-head: Both sides will be looking to gain the ascendancy in the midfield battle. Tevita Kuridrani will go head-to-head with Huw Jones at outside centre and whoever is able to break the line with more regularity is set to win the contest for their respective sides. Kuridrani and Jones are definitely their sides' go-to strike runners.

Previous results:

2017: Scotland won 24-19 in Sydney
2016: Australia won 23-22 in Edinburgh
2015: Austalia won 35-34 in London
2013: Australia won 21-15 in Edinburgh
2012: Scotland won 9-6 in Newcastle, Australia
2009: Scotland won 9-8 in Edinburgh
2006: Australia won 44-15 in Edinburgh
2004: Australia won 31-17 in Glasgow

Prediction: What a game we have in prospect. It promises to go right down to the wire but we're just backing Australia to win by 3.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Byron McGuigan

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Wilkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

France make eight changes

France have made eight changes to their starting side that will face Japan in Nanterre on Saturday, with Baptiste Serin named at scrum-half.

Serin is joined in the half-backs by Francois Trinh-Duc with Teddy Thomas the only back to keep his place after the loss to South Africa.

Scott Spedding, Gabriel Lacroix, Damian Penaud and Henry Chavancy come into the backs as they look to prove a point to Guy Novès.

In the pack the front-row remains as it was but Romain Taofifenua gets the nod at lock, as does Sekou Macalou, who makes his debut.

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Daniel Kotze, 18 Sebastien Taofifenua, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Fabien Sanconnie, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Mathieu Bastareaud, 23 Hugo Bonneval

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: U Arena, Nanterre
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)

Read ruled out, Whitelock leads All Blacks

Sam Whitelock takes over as New Zealand captain for their clash with Wales on Saturday after Kieran Read was ruled out because of injury.

Read has been replaced at number eight by Luke Whitelock for the game at the Principality Stadium.

There is one other injury-enforced change to the matchday 23 which played Scotland last week: Patrick Tuipulotu comes in for Luke Romano. Meanwhile, Liam Squire will start at blindside flanker, and lock Scott Barrett comes onto the bench in the 19 jersey.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "Whilst it's disappointing to not have 'Reado' available, it's a great opportunity to further grow the leadership of the team and, in this case, Sam Whitelock gets the opportunity to captain the side. On behalf of the team, we'd like to congratulate him on this special honour.

"With his brother Luke captaining the All Blacks against the French XV, it will create a unique, All Blacks family history, and one which their family can be proud of."

Hansen added: "There's been a real energy and buzz in the team this week as we prepare for the Test against Wales. The group has worked hard on its preparation, we've asked them to go bone deep and they're looking to deliver a performance we can all be proud of.

"It's always a pleasure to play in stadiums like the Millennium. We experienced a magnificent atmosphere last week up in Murrayfield and looking forward to a full house on Saturday. The Welsh are well known for their singing and that, in itself, creates something special. As always, we have been treated incredibly well here in Cardiff and have thoroughly enjoyed our week."

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Jones back to lead much-changed Wales

Wales captain and second-row Alun Wyn Jones returns to lead the side against New Zealand in Saturday's end-of-year international in Cardiff.

Jones is part of an unchanged pack from the opening year-end clash against Australia and he will line up alongside Jake Ball in the second row, with Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau named in the back row. The front row comprises of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis.

Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar partner at half-back with Owen Williams lining up alongside Scott Williams in the midfield with the Scarlets centre winning his 50th cap on Saturday.

The back-three features Leigh Halfpenny at full-back with Hallam Amos and Steff Evans, who have scored three tries between them in the opening two end-of-year encounters, on the wings.

"It's great to name an unchanged pack from the Australia match, we were pleased with a lot of aspects of our second half performance in that match so we are looking to build on that on Saturday," said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

"We have a couple of injuries in the backline but we also have players on form starting. Steff Evans and Hallam Amos are both on form and we are excited to see what they can do.

"We have spoken heavily about opportunity this autumn and there is no greater opportunity than lining up against the world champions."

Kristian Dacey, Wyn Jones and Leon Brown provide the front row cover on the bench. 

Cory Hill and Justin Tipuric, who returns from injury for his first involvement in the autumn campaign, completing the forward contingent. Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts provide the back-line cover.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Argentina unveil side for Ireland

Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has named his matchday 23 to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.

Ramiro Moyano comes in for Sebastian Cancelliere on the right wing while Matias Moroni replaces Matias Orlando at outside centre.

Tomas Lezana replaces veteran Juan Manuel Leguizamon at number eight with Benjamin Macome providing the cover on the bench.

Argentina will be looking to follow up last weekend's win in Italy with a strong performance as they hope to sign off 2017 on a positive.

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Preview: Scotland v Australia

Scotland will be looking to do a rare double over the Wallabies when the sides meet at Murrayfield on Saturday in what is sure to be a thriller.

It won't be an easy task against a Wallabies outfit certainly in far better shape than they were in that 24-19 defeat in Sydney.

The Wallabies were shocked in the June internationals and were even given an almighty scare by the Italians. This prompted head coach Michael Cheika to instigate a four-week training camp prior to the start of the Rugby Championship focusing on physical and mental conditioning.

After getting 60 put on them by the All Blacks in their first Rugby Championship encounter, Michael Cheika's men bounced back with credible draws against the Springboks, a narrow 35-29 defeat to the All Blacks in which they were leading two minutes from time only for World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett to score a last-gasp game-clinching try. 

And in the third and final Bledisloe match of the year the Wallabies' comeback was finally complete when they broke their 15-match winless run against the All Blacks.

They followed this up with a convincing victory over Wales but were brought crashing down to earth with a 30-6 defeat against England at Twickenham last Saturday.

Scotland, meanwhile, are coming off the back of an admirable 22-17 defeat to the All Blacks in which they almost snatched a late victory were it not for a great piece of last-ditch defending by that man Barrett again on Stuart Hogg.

The Scots have enjoyed a massive two years and even British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admitted that it was tough on Scotland who he felt were unlucky not to have more representation in the squad named to tour New Zealand.

Groundbreaking wins over Wales and Ireland in the Six Nations shows the axis of power is slowly shifting in British rugby with Scotland closing the gap on their counterparts quite significantly.

And if that win over the Wallabies in June didn't make the rugby world sit up and take notice, it certainly made the Aussies wary of the threat the Scots pose.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: Keep a eye on Stuart Hogg who is in brilliant form.. If he is able to make the right decisions from full-back he can be a thorn in the opposition defence with his sheer pace and power and ability to run excellent lines.

For Australia: Will Genia has been terrific for the Wallabies since making his return from France. The 29-year-old could just be at the peak of his powers and seems to be an even better player than the one who departed Aussie shores.

Head-to-head: Both sides will be looking to gain the ascendancy in the midfield battle. Tevita Kuridrani will go head-to-head with Huw Jones at outside centre and whoever is able to break the line with more regularity set to win the contest for their respective sides. Kuridrani and Jones are definitely their sides' go-to strike runners.

2017: Scotland won 24-19 in Sydney
2016: Australia won 23-22 in Edinburgh
2015: Austalia won 35-34 in London
2013: Australia won 21-15 in Edinburgh
2012: Scotland won 9-6 in Newcastle, Australia
2009: Scotland won 9-8 in Edinburgh
2006: Australia won 44-15 in Edinburgh
2004: Australia won 31-17 in Glasgow

Prediction: Australia are going to enact their revenge in their hosts' own backyard. Wallabies by ten.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Byron McGuigan

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Wilkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester

Hooker Scott Lawson will make his 100th competitive appearance for Newcastle Falcons on Friday when they host Gloucester at Kingston Park.

The 36-year-old is in his fifth season with the Kingston Park club, the 46-times-capped Scotland international forming part of a side showing five changes from the one which started last weekend’s match at Wasps.

Three of those come in the back-line, where an all-Argentinean centre pairing of Juan Pablo Socino and Belisario Agulla will be fed by fly-half Joel Hodgson. 

Up front Will Witty joins the second row alongside Sean Robinson, who is making his 50th Falcons appearance, while Nili Latu bolsters a reshuffled back row which sees captain Will Welch sliding across to the openside flank.

Speaking ahead of his 100th competitive game in Newcastle colours, Lawson said: “With coming so late in my career it’s something I probably didn’t think would happen when I joined the club four and a half years ago.

“It’s such an attritional game these days which means it can be tough to post big numbers on the appearance board. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to play a lot of games, and I’m honestly delighted to be within touching distance of the hundred.”

Director of rugby Dean Richards hailed his evergreen hooker, saying: “Scotty is a great professional who looks after the detail of his game and delivers a consistent level of performance each time he takes the field. It’s great for him to reach the hundred and I know he’ll be fired up to mark the occasion against one of his former clubs.”

Meanwhile, Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann has made four changes to his run-on side after last weekend's win over Saracens.

Three of the changes are in the pack as Gloucester shuffle their resources - James Hanson, Jeremy Thrush and Jake Polledri coming in for Richard Hibbard, Ed Slater and Freddie Clarke respectively.

The final change to the starting line-up sees Henry Purdy replace Henry Trinder on the wing, the latter picking up a knock in training this week.

Ackermann told the local media this week that last weekend's win over Saracens was a positive step forward for the group but that the trip to Newcastle will create just as tough a challenge.

"It was a good moment, a moment that we have to treasure and enjoy," he said.

"But, saying that, everything started back to normal on Monday. There's a massive challenge ahead of us on Friday and one game isn't going to mean a lot if we don't back it up.

"A good result always builds confidence, but it wasn't a perfect game. We showed a lot of heart in a great defensive effort in that first half, and then some better play in the second half. So, there are definitely things to take forward but stuff we have to improve as well.

"We've put certain things in place to get over the travel, it is a fair distance on the bus. But the team have shown they can perform at a good level and it's for us to control what we can control - our standards and how we want to play. 

"It will be quite a disappointment if we pitch up there and don't perform to our standards. But we have to respect that Newcastle aren't a bad team. You can't look at the result from last weekend and think you're going to arrive and get a victory."

Form: Newcastle Falcons have slipped to three straight defeats in Premiership Rugby since beating London Irish at Kingston Park at the end of September. The Falcons have lost only one of their last seven games at Kingston Park in all tournaments: 13-30 to Leicester Tigers in round 7 of Premiership Rugby. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last five first team games was 24-26 to Leicester at Welford Road in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Gloucester won their most recent away game in Premiership Rugby, 22-21 at Bath, but have not won successive away games in the competition since the turn of the New Year 2015. The Falcons achieved the Premiership Rugby double over Gloucester in the last campaign for the first time since 2011/12 and have never won three in succession against the Cherry and Whites in the professional era.

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Belisario Agulla, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sam Stuart, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Will Witty, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers 
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Calum Green, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Ruaridh Dawson, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Chris Harris

Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Andy Symons, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 James Hanson, 1 Josh Hohneck 
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Mark Atkinson

Date: Friday, November 24
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Peter Allan
TMO: Claire Hodnett

Moore starts in swansong

Stephen Moore has been named as starting hooker in his final match as the Wallabies take on Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Moore has been joined in the 23 by Taniela Tupou, who has been thrown straight into the squad just two days after becoming eligible for Test duty.

Tupou joined the squad last week in London, after the NRC season wrapped, and has done enough to impress coach Michael Cheika in his training sessions.

Ben McCalman will start at six in place of injured Ned Hanigan, with Lukhan Tui cleared of a hamstring injury to play off the bench, and Matt Philip dropping out.

Tetera Faulkner replaces Allan Alaalatoa in the replacement loosehead spot.

Henry Speight comes onto the pine, in a five-three combination.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-Off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Wilkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Mbonambi starts, Gelant on bench for Boks

Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for the Springboks against Italy in Padova on Saturday.

Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday. Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result, he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited about the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

Springboks: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Stadio Euganeo, Padova
Kick-Off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)