The All Blacks will provide the acid test for north’s leading lights

The autumn Tests provide an indication of sides’ potential for next year’s World Cup in Japan

“You want to be out there when the lights are on,” said Australia’s captain, Michael Hooper, during the build-up to the Test against New Zealand in Yokohama , explaining that the Wallabies’ slump since reaching the 2015 World Cup final was not down to a withering of competitiveness or desire.

The lights will be on for four weekends next month as the domestic programme in Europe yields to the autumn internationals, but not at full wattage. The southern hemisphere nations will be in the final stretch of a 10-month season and, like their Six Nations opponents, are blighted by injuries: the Vunipola brothers, Anthony Watson, Taulupe Faletau, Tendai Mtawarira, Sam Cane, Conor Murray, Wesley Fofana and Stuart Hogg will be watching from a distance for what may be the last friendly Test window before World Rugby introduces a more competitive element from 2020, although it is still to be formulated, let alone agreed.

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