Rugby: Springboks won't feature in eight-team Nations Cup tournament

Georgia has replaced Japan in the new eight-team Autumn Nations Cup competition in Europe in November, with the format and fixtures confirmed by organisers. 

After the original November internationals were cancelled, due to coronavirus travel restrictions impacting the southern hemisphere nations, an 'alternative Six Nations', with Fiji and Japan added, was devised.

Japan also had to withdraw because of COVID-19 complications, which sparked speculation that South Africa would take part in the tournament, but  organisers have opted for Georgia instead. 

That leaves the Springboks to defend their Rugby Championship title, although where the competition will be hosted remains unclear, with New Zealand or Australia the likely destination from November 7-December 12.

The new Nations Cup will comprise two pools of four - Group A will feature England, Ireland, Wales and Georgia, with Group B comprising France, Scotland, Italy and Fiji.

The competition will be played over four weekends, starting November 14, when Ireland face Wales.

The competition will conclude on the weekend of the December 5-6, with a final round of matches that pits teams against the team ranked in the same position in the opposite pool.

Wales' home games are expected to be hosted at London venues, with the Principality Stadium still unavailable, after being used as a COVID-19 hospital.

Before that, the rescheduled games in the Six Nations will be played, with Ireland v Italy on October 25, and Wales v Scotland, Italy v England and France v Ireland on November 1.

Georgia will compete in the Nations Cup tournament.
Georgia will compete in the Nations Cup tournament. Photo credit: Getty

"While the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic made the traditional Autumn test window unfeasible, we remained determined to deliver a unique and compelling tournament proposition, which would ensure world class rugby for our fans globally, and competitive matches for players, unions and federations," says Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel. 

Whether fans are allowed to attend still remains unclear. England had hoped to have at least 20,000 at Twickenham, but new Government restrictions could make that unfeasible.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about the return of fans to the stadium," Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney says.

International matches are the main source of income for all the unions and they will be desperate to start selling tickets, after seeing their finances massively impacted by COVID-19 over the last six months