A last-gasp penalty from Rhys Priestland denied 14-man Australia a memorable comeback against Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Smarting from a 32-15 defeat to England last time out, the Wallabies were up against it when Rob Valetini's red card and a 10-point deficit left them staring at a potentially heavy defeat.

However, Wales – who survived a scare against Fiji after despite Eroni Sau's red card – were pegged back and it required steely nerves from Priestland beyond the 80-minute mark to secure a 29-28 win.

Australia began in brilliant fashion as Andrew Kellaway collected a grubber and touched down, although Dan Biggar quickly reduced the deficit with a penalty, but the match swung firmly Wales' way when Valetini was shown red for a dangerous high tackle that left Adam Beard bleeding, Biggar then kicking a further three points.

Although James O'Connor's penalty put the 14 men ahead, Kurtley Beale was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Ryan Elias scored Wales' first try after good work at the resulting lineout.

O'Connor and Biggar exchanged further penalties and the latter converted after Nick Tomkins intercepted a pass and scored a simple try, with a TMO check allowing it to stand.

Then came the threat of a late surprise. Nic White finished a fine move involving Beale, and although Biggar's boot stretched Wales' lead again, Filipo Daugunu touched down in the corner with O'Connor's kick striking the post to spare the hosts.

Beale's kick then put Australia ahead with two minutes to play, but after winning a penalty inside the visitors' 22 in the 81st minute, Priestland kept his nerve to send Cardiff into raptures.

Marcus Smith nailed a last-gasp penalty as England rounded out their November internationals with a 27-26 win over South Africa in a barnstorming Twickenham Test.

Making only a third Test start, the unflappable Smith made the decisive contribution in a match that looked like getting away from the White Rose after an enterprising performance was mixed with ill-discipline.

England outscored South Africa three tries to one but a penalty count of 18 allowed the Springboks to stay in the game and the visitors were leading until the last minute.

However, the win marks a measure of revenge for Eddie Jones' side, who were beaten in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final the last time these two sides went head-to-head.

England were dominant in the first half and Manu Tuilagi crossed after fine work from Smith opened the play for Henry Slade to make the long pass.

The nerveless Handre Pollard put South Africa on the board prior to Freddie Steward showing great power to bundle over from close range and extend England's lead.

But England's lack of composure at the breakdown meant the lead was only five points at the break, with Pollard nailing three more kicks to Smith's one, and more poor discipline saw South Africa inch ahead thanks to Pollard and Elton Jantjies kicks.

A fine breakaway score from Joe Marchant was answered by an unconverted score from Makazole Mapimpi after Will Stuart was sin-binned, and Frans Steyn kicked another penalty for South Africa.

But Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi saw yellow himself, before another penalty in front of the posts in the final minute allowed Smith to have the final say.


Smith, Steward offer bright glimpse of the future

Smith may only be in the infancy of his international career but he already looks an assured presence at this level.

Full-back Steward put in a fine performance at full-back too. The pair look a very exciting prospect for an England side who played with plenty of attacking intent and backed up a fine win over Australia last time out.

Young front row survives the test but penalties a worry

Much of the narrative ahead of this one was whether the inexperienced duo of hooker Jamie Blamire and prop Bevan Rodd could cope against South Africa's pack.

For the most part they passed the test superbly, but for all their endeavour England were guilty of giving away far too many cheap penalties. On another day, and against a player of the quality of Pollard who hurt them so badly in the World Cup final, it could have been far more costly.

England captain Owen Farrell is a major doubt for the start of the Six Nations after it was revealed he must undergo ankle surgery.

Farrell limped off during England's 32-15 victory over Australia at Twickenham last Saturday.

Saracens on Thursday revealed the England skipper will be out for 10 to 12 weeks, with an operation required.

The versatile Farrell faces a battle to be fit for the Red Rose's opening game of the 2022 Six Nations against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

Sarries also confirmed in a fitness bulletin that their England hooker Jamie George will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks due to the knee damage he sustained in the win over the Wallabies.

The Premiership club were able to offer positive news of Elliot Daly, who is back in full training and available to return after recovering from a leg injury.

England head coach Eddie Jones has named Courtney Lawes as captain for the clash with South Africa on Saturday in the absence of Farrell.

Manu Tuilagi moves to inside centre to fill the void left by Farrell, with Joe Marchant starting on the right wing.

Rookie duo Bevan Rodd and Jamie Blamire will start in the front row, while hooker Nic Dolly could make his debut off the bench against the world champions.

Rookie duo Bevan Rodd and Jamie Blamire will start in the front row for England when they face world champions South Africa on Saturday.

Blamire, who has scored four tries in five games for his country, gets his chance from the start with Jamie George ruled out due to a knee injury and prop Rodd comes into the team alongside Kyle Sinckler.

Flanker Courtney Lawes captains the Red Rose for the second time in the absence of Owen Farrell, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over Australia last weekend.

Hooker Nic Dolly could make his debut off the bench as Eddie Jones' side go in search of revenge for the 2019 World Cup final defeat.

Joe Marchant gets the nod to start on the right wing, with Manu Tuilagi moving to inside centre.

Prop Joe Marler is among the replacements, having missed the defeat of the 32-16 of the Wallabies after testing positive for coronavirus.

England have not lost to the Springboks at Twickenham since 2014, when they were edged out 31-18.

 

England team: Freddie Steward, Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Bevan Rodd, Jamie Blamire, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes (captain), Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Nic Dolly, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Sam Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt, Raffi Quirke, Max Malins.

Josh Adams has been passed fit to start for Wales and Pete Samu replaces Michael Hooper in the Australia team for Saturday's Test at the at Principality Stadium.

Adams missed the 38-23 defeat of Fiji last weekend due to a calf injury, but the winger will face the Wallabies.

Uilisi Halaholo and Nick Tompkins are Wayne Pivac's centre pairing, while the fit-again Aaron Wainwright is back at number eight.

Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis return to the starting line-up for what will be the final Test of the year for both sides.

Samu comes into the Australia team in the absence of Hooper, who suffered a foot injury in the loss to England at Twickenham last Saturday.

Props Taniela Tupou and Allan Alaalatoa return after missing the defeat to the Red Rose due to concussion, while Tolu Latu starts at hooker and Filipo Daugunu gets the nod on the wing alongside Andrew Kellaway.

Centre Lalakai Foketi is set to make his debut off the bench, with James Slipper taking over as skipper.

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins (captain), Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Ben Carter, Christ Tshiunza, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Johnny McNicholl.

Australia team: Kurtley Beale, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, James O'Connor, Nic White; James Slipper (captain), Tolu Latu, Taniela Tupou, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Will Skelton, Lachlan Swinton, Tate McDermott, Lalakai Foketi, Tom Wright.

Australia captain Michael Hooper will be absent for the Wallabies' final Autumn Nations Series game against Wales on Saturday. 

Hooper was forced off injured during the second half of Australia's 32-15 loss to England at Twickenham last weekend, which followed a 15-13 defeat to Scotland. 

The Wallabies confirmed on Twitter that scans carried out on the flanker revealed he had suffered a midfoot sprain and would be unavailable to take on Wales at the Principality Stadium. 

The news came after Hooper was revealed to be one of four players in contention for the World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year award. He is up against Antoine Dupont, Maro Itoje and Samu Kerevi in the fan vote. 

Australia have only won two of their past 10 away Tests against European teams, losing eight. However, one of those victories came against Wales in Cardiff in 2017. 

England captain Owen Farrell and hooker Jamie George have been ruled out Saturday's Test against South Africa at Twickenham.

Farrell sustained an ankle injury during the 32-15 victory over Australia last Saturday after his Saracens team-mate George was force off with a knee problem.

Eddie Jones has brought Harry Elrington and Jack Singleton into his squad to face the world champions.

Prop Joe Marler will return for international duty on Friday after completing a 10-day isolation following his positive coronavirus test.

Farrell had missed the thrashing of Tonga after the skipper returned a positive COVID-19 test, but started at inside centre in the defeat of the Wallabies.

Jamie Blamire scored his sixth try in only four Tests after coming on to replace George and is poised to start when England do battle with the Springboks.

 

 

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has been ruled out for up to six weeks after suffering a twisted ankle and knee in the famous 29-20 victory over New Zealand on Saturday.

The Leinster fly-half will miss the final match of the Autumn Nations Series campaign against Argentina on Sunday and faces at least four weeks on the sidelines.

Joey Carbery came on to replace Sexton with 15 minutes to go at the Aviva Stadium and sent three penalties sailing through the posts to consign the All Blacks to defeat.

Sexton will remain with squad, while Connacht number 10 Jack Carty has been called up in the absence of the skipper.

Andy Farrell will also be able to call upon Munster back rower Gavin Coombes against the Pumas after he recovered from illness.

Ireland beat Argentina 28-17 when the two nations last met in Dublin three years ago.

Freddie Steward and Jamie Blamire touched down as England secured a 32-15 victory over Australia in the Autumn Nations Series at Twickenham on Saturday.  

Leicester Tigers full-back Steward crossed for his first Test try in the opening stages, but poor discipline from both teams meant the match was largely a kicking contest.  

The returning Owen Farrell had 17 points to James O'Connor's 15 with the boot as Australia failed to bounce back from their 15-13 loss to Scotland last weekend.  

After Farrell and Michael Hooper hobbled off with injuries in the second half, Blamire raced away with the clock in the red to add a touch of gloss to the scoreline. 

Steward stepped around Kurtley Beale for the opening try in the eighth minute, but England were unable to take full advantage of Australia being reduced to 14 men after Tom Wright was sent to the bin for catching Jamie George in the head with his shoulder.  

Only a sublime last-ditch tackle from Nic White stopped George touching in the corner in the 35th minute and O'Connor's fourth successful penalty before Wright returned meant there were just four points in it at the break.  

O'Connor closed the gap further after the restart, but Angus Bell was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Courtney Lawes and Farrell slotted through the resulting penalty, though he missed another effort from the tee before Bell returned.  

An ankle injury forced Hooper off before the hour mark and Farrell put a converted try between the teams with a successful penalty after Bell's scrum infringement. 

The game was already put to bed before Noah Lolesio gave the ball away to Sam Simmonds, who teed up Blamire for a try that Marcus Smith converted to make the result look more comfortable.

Eight straight for England  

Since Eddie Jones took over, England have been victorious in all of their eight meetings with their coach's home nation. They have never enjoyed a better winning run against the Wallabies, who last got the better of England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.  

Australia still struggle in Europe  

Having succumbed to back-to-back defeats against Scotland and England, Australia have now won just two of their past 10 away Tests versus European teams. They will hope to end the skid against Wales at the Principality Stadium next weekend. 

Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Owen Farrell returns at inside centre, while Manu Tuilagi moves to the wing when England face Australia on Saturday.

Smith came off the bench in the 69-3 thrashing of Tonga last weekend but will make his third Test start in place of George Furbank against the Wallabies at Twickenham.

Captain Farrell comes back into the team after missing the drubbing of the Pacific island nation due to his positive coronavirus test.

Tuilagi shifts from midfield to the right wing, with Jonny May on the other flank, and Maro Itoje will make his 50th appearance for his country in an unchanged pack.

Bevan Rodd and Raffi Quirke could make their debuts off the bench, but Joe Marler will not feature after the prop tested positive for COVID-19.

England head coach Eddie Jones said: "We know this will be a tough test for us, we're playing against a team who have been together a while and who have beat the world champions twice. As an Australian, I know how much this game means.

"We've had a really good week of preparation, we're looking to improve our performance this week and I think this side is building well."

England: Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Jamie Blamire, Bevan Rodd, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds, Raffi Quirke, Max Malins.

England captain Owen Farrell has been cleared to return to the squad after his coronavirus test was revealed to be a false positive.

The 30-year-old went into isolation and missed England's 69-3 over Tonga on Saturday after a PCR test taken on Thursday came back positive.

However, England revealed on Sunday that the result has been reviewed and determined as a false positive test.

He tested negative in subsequent PCR tests and has therefore been given the green light to link up with his team-mates at Pennyhill Park.

Farrell will be in contention to return to action for Eddie Jones' side when they take on Australia at Twickenham next Saturday.

South Africa held their nerve in a terrific tussle to win 23-18 against a Wales side who were left to bemoan the moment a pitch invader cost them a likely try.

On a wet evening at the Principality Stadium, this game remained on a knife-edge throughout, the only points coming from the boots of Dan Biggar, Handre Pollard and Frans Steyn until Malcolm Marx crossed the Welsh line seven minutes from the end.

Elton Jantjies booted a penalty with the last kick of the contest, resulting in the five-point winning margin.

Wales had been level at 15-15 in the 63rd minute when a spectator burst onto the pitch and got in the way just as a chance to break through the South Africa defence presented itself.

Liam Williams looked to have a near-enough clear run to the left corner, but the presence of the intruder, with security staff looking to grapple him away from the action, meant momentum went and the chance was lost.

This was a thundering clash throughout, South Africa handling the early threat posed by Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit, as Biggar and Pollard kept the scoreboard ticking along.

Both sides had a player yellow-carded for persistent team infringements before the break, with Ox Nche and Rhys Carre sent to the bin, and Wales led 12-9 at the break.

The hosts nudged 15-9 ahead but were pegged back to 15-15 as South Africa rallied after a penalty from within his own half by Steyn. Wales then moved in front again after Biggar's sixth penalty, which followed moments after the intruder was escorted away, with supporters in the stands directing their anger his way.

South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi sprinted through to dot down but a TMO review picked up an offence and chalked it off. There was no denying the Boks in the 73rd minute though, when they drove irresistibly over the Welsh line, Marx grounding the ball.

Jantjies, on for Pollard, missed the conversion attempt from close to the touchline, meaning South Africa were just two points clear, but Wales could not find a response.


Close... as it was bound to be

It is now the case that 13 of the last 15 meetings between these teams have been decided by single-figure margins, with 11 of those games seeing the sides separated by six points or fewer at the final whistle.

Friend or foe?

It was unclear how or why the intruder came to be on the pitch, but Wales had every cause to be furious about the fan's presence. There was no doubt he was a distraction just as Wales got themselves into a position to threaten the try-line. Had Wales got over at that stage, there might have been a very different outcome.

New Zealand extended their 100 per cent winning record against Italy to 15 games as they scored a crushing 47-9 win in Rome – setting a record for the most points in a calendar year.

The visitors, who named an entirely different line-up to the side that swept past Wales last week in Cardiff, were held scoreless in an error-strewn opening 25 minutes. However, the eventual drubbing meant New Zealand took their 2021 points haul to 675, beating the previous best of 658 set in 2007 by South Africa.

Finlay Christie broke the deadlock when he scrambled in after the All Blacks pushed the Azzurri back at a scrum. Dane Coles added a second moments later as New Zealand power won out again, and the same player grabbed a third shortly before half-time too.

Italy, in action for the first time since losing all five of their games in a dismal Six Nations showing, had new coach Kieran Crowley – a former All Blacks full-back– at the helm.

A pair of penalties from Paolo Garbisi put them on the board, and he added a third after the interval to briefly trim New Zealand's lead to 12 points, but Sevu Reece bounded through tiring blue jerseys for a fourth All Blacks try just after the hour, with Asafo Aumua grabbing a late close-range double and Hoskins Sotutu dashing down the wing to pile on the points.

Richie Mo'unga missed the conversion attempt from Aumua's second try, having successfully booted the extras for each of the previous five-pointers.

New Zealand, having beaten the United States, Wales and now Italy, face two more games on their tour, against Ireland in Dublin next Saturday, followed by France on November 20 in Paris.

England captain Owen Farrell has tested positive for COVID-19 and is a major doubt for the upcoming clash with Tonga.

The 30-year-old has gone into isolation after receiving a positive PCR test result and is absent from England's training session on Friday, but he still has a chance of featuring on Saturday, according to the Rugby Football Union.

England confirmed that - aside from one member of support staff - all their other players and staff had returned negative test results on Thursday, and Farrell will be tested again.

The England skipper was set to start the Autumn Nations Series opener at fly-half, with George Ford not named in the squad and Marcus Smith struggling with an injury.

If Farrell is unable to feature, George Furbank is the most natural replacement, although Henry Slade could also move across to take his spot.

 

Defending champions Wales are set to be without captain Alun Wyn Jones for the Six Nations due to a shoulder injury.

Jones was ruled out of the remainder of the Autumn Nations Series, as he requires surgery due to the damage done in a crushing 54-16 defeat to New Zealand last weekend.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac does not expect the most capped player of all time to play any part when the holders bid to retain their Six Nations title next year.

Pivac said on Thursday: "I don't think he'll be available for the Six Nations.

"You learn a lot about the worth of people when they're not there. I think a lot of people take Alun Wyn for granted – he's always been there and got seniority.

"That leadership is really important. The essence is on others to step up and take that role on."

Jones, who astonishingly recovered from a shoulder injury to captain the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, is in the twilight of his career at the age of 35.

Pivac believes the inspirational towering lock, who won a world record 149th Wales cap in the loss to the All Blacks, can play in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

"The intention is always to see if Al can get to the World Cup. I think it's a realistic goal personally," the New Zealander said.

"You've just got to see him in training and when he's playing, the efforts he puts in. I don't see anything going anywhere near backwards in terms of his performances.

"A bit of time off, we spoke about this before Al left camp. It's not ideal for him. We're all looking forward to him playing 150 Test matches for Wales, but that is still a goal and I'm sure he'll get there."

Pivac has made six changes to the starting XV for the showdown with South Africa at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, with Ellis Jenkins replacing Ross Moriarty (shoulder) in what will be his first Test for three years after recovering from a knee injury.

Dan Biggar returns at fly-half, while wing Louis Rees-Zammit, centre Nick Tompkins and prop Rhys Carre also start and Jonathan Davies takes over as captain.
 

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonathan Davies (captain), Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, WillGriff John, Ben Carter, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Liam Williams.

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