England will play Georgia for the first time outside of a Rugby World Cup after the latter was confirmed alongside Fiji as the two countries who will compete in the Autumn Nations Cup.
They join Six Nations teams England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy who had committed to an alternative competition this autumn after New Zealand, Australia and South Africa pulled their plans to tour the northern hemisphere.
The subsequent withdrawal of Japan due to travel restrictions enforced by the pandemic has led to Georgia to take the final place, after efforts to have the Springboks commit to the competition yielded no results.
England will begin their campaign against Georgia at Twickenham on November 14, while their Group A rivals Ireland and Wales will kick off the tournament in Dublin a day earlier.
Group B will be contested by Scotland, France, Italy and Fiji, with the tournament concluding with each team facing off against the side ranked in the same position in the opposite pool.
The tournament has been arranged by Six Nations Rugby, in cooperation with its constituent unions and federations.
“We are absolutely delighted to formally announce details of the Autumn Nations Cup,” Six Nations Rugby chief executive Ben Morel said.
“A significant amount of time and effort has gone into delivering this new tournament format in testing circumstances and the spirit of collaboration amongst key stakeholders has been outstanding.
“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.
“We cannot wait for the tournament to get underway in November and fans can look forward to some outstanding matches featuring some of the greatest players in the world. We are especially pleased to be joined by Fiji and Georgia and expect them both to be tremendous additions to the competition.”
While England, Ireland and Scotland will be able to play at Twickenham, the Aviva Stadium and Murrayfield, respectively, it remains to be seen where Wales, France and Italy will confirm their ‘home’ matches to be played.
Wales’ Principality Stadium was converted into a field hospital earlier this year ahead of the peaking of COVID-19 infections.
Work to decommission the Cardiff-based stadium began last week in the hope that rugby will be able to be played there this autumn.
As reported by The Rugby Paper in recent weeks, the WRU had held talks with the RFU over playing Wales’ matches at Twickenham but were priced out over costs.
This led the union to consider the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, avenue of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where West Ham United rent the stadium for £2.5m annually as lead tenants.