Eddie Jones (Getty Images)
Six Nations rugby chiefs on Thursday unveiled the eight-team Autumn Nations Cup, which replaces the traditional international Test window during the coronavirus pandemic.
The tournament, involving the Six Nations sides as well as Georgia and Fiji, will take place over four weekends between 13 November and 6 December.
In the weeks leading up to the announcement there was much speculation that the Springboks would play in the tournament in place of Japan, one of the original picks but who had withdrawn from the tournament.
The teams will be divided into two pools of four. Group A will include England, Ireland, Wales and Georgia with Group B comprising France, Scotland, Italy and Fiji.
Georgia replaced Japan, who opted not to take part in the tournament, which will start two weeks after the conclusion of the virus-disrupted Six Nations.
The action gets under way on November 13, with Ireland hosting Wales in Dublin.
The other opening games see Italy play Scotland and England host Georgia the following day, with France taking on Fiji on November 15.
The Nations Cup will conclude on the weekend of December 5 and 6 with a special final round of matches.
Based on the pool rankings coming into the final weekend, each team will face off against the side ranked in the same position in the opposite pool.
England, Scotland and Ireland will play their matches at home but the venues for Wales, France and Italy’s home games are still to be decided.
The presence of fans remains uncertain due to Covid-19 regulations.
“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,” said Six Nations Rugby CEO Ben Morel.
“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.”
England coach Eddie Jones said: “We have a new competition format this autumn and are expecting four quality Tests, which will be a good challenge for us.”
Wales boss Wayne Pivac said international rugby had been “hugely missed”.
Ireland host Italy in Dublin in the Six Nations on October 24 before all three round-five games take place on the following Saturday to decide the title winners.
England top the Six Nations standings with 13 points, ahead of France on points difference.