Now that the Autumn Internationals are over, it’s safe to focus our attention on the upcoming year and the 2015 Six Nations and more importantly – the Rugby World Cup! But what can we expect to see? Who is going to dominate and what teams are going to be a real surprise?
Here’s a complete roundup of each team’s efforts in the most recent Autumn Internationals (in alphabetical order):
There were many ups and downs for Argentina in this tournament, with an 18-13 win against France being the highlight of their tournament. Sadly this wasn’t the story of their entire tour, as they were beaten by Scotland in a 72-point thriller.
Players to watch for the future include fly-half, Nicholas Sanchez, as his solid kicking and good game management helped to direct some of the most forward thinking play that the Pumas have seen in a while.
This was not a good tournament for Australia, as they only managed to beat Wales in a narrow 28-33 victory. France managed to pip them at the post, as did Ireland, while England drove home a comfortable 26-17 win against them at Twickenham. They made lots of little errors with kicking and their scrum looked like the team’s Achilles heel.
Much of the issues here are likely to be worked out by Australia’s new head coach Michael Cheika, which should put the team back in a recognisable form by the World Cup. The player to watch is Israel Folau without a doubt – this man is a line finding, hard hitting, quick running machine.
England seem to have gone back to basics when it comes to gameplay, with lots of hard work from the forwards followed by a bit of flare from the backs. They only narrowly lost to New Zealand and South Africa – both by 3 points – but they smashed Samoa 28-9 and secured a healthy win against Australia.
It’s hard to pin down a single player to watch on this side, although George Ford is definitely a true contender.
If this team continue to play at this level throughout the six nations then they are likely to be the bookies favourites at RWC 2015.
Destroyed by France and beaten by a very poor Welsh-side. There really isn’t much hope for Fiji come the World Cup – especially considering they are in the ‘Pool of Death’.
It will be interesting to see if they up their game, as their backs do look particularly threatening when they have possession.
Played three, won two but it was another case of “which France will turn up”, they absolutely destroyed Fiji in a 40-15 victory and clipped Australia for a win but they succumbed to Argentina – a game that they were almost sure to win.
If France manage to put their best foot forward then they will be true contenders at RWC 2015 but if they continue this flip flop performance then they may not even make it out of their pool. Player to watch is definitely Thierry Dusautoir, as a strong performance from him can be the fighting difference to the French forwards.
They may not have played New Zealand, but Ireland is the only home nation side to not have lost a single game. Ireland had a comfortable win against South Africa, an absolute triumph against Georgia and a narrow win from Australia. This puts a lot of confidence in a side that is still buzzing from their 6 Nations win earlier in the year – if they continue playing at this level then we’ll be in for a very interesting RWC.
Player to watch is Jonny Sexton – his game management, good kicking and excellent foresight makes this team a force to be reckoned with.
The All Blacks showed exactly why they are the best team in the world this tournament with a clean sweep against England, Scotland and Wales. Some of the games looked quite close – especially the Wales game – but there was never a sense of defeat in the Kiwi’s camp and they managed to pull it out of the bag every time.
Forget player to watch, this is the team to watch.Anyone who manages to beat New Zealand in the RWC is likely to go on to win the championship.
We are seeing an entirely new Scotland coming through, and they are pretty impressive. They played a blinder against Argentina securing a 10 point win, held their own against New Zealand for the majority of the match and only lost by a respectable 24-16. They then went on to absolutely destroy Tonga 37-12! If Scotland carry this performance through to the Six Nations and World Cup then we are going to be in for a treat.
Finn Russell came in as Scotland’s new 10 and he did a fantastic job at directing the game. All his kicking was on point and he opened up some very creative lines that helped Scotland gain territory and get points on the board.
Bit of an odd one for South Africa as their yellow card against Ireland saw them suffer a landslide defeat of 29-15. Their confidence was clearly shaken when taking on England and they only just about managed to secure a victory. They got it all back to smash Italy 6-22, but then they lost to Wales in a historic 12-6 defeat.
Needless to say, South Africa will be making a lot of changes over the next year, but if this tournament is anything to go on then it isn’t looking good for the world cup.
Another season of lows and highs for Wales with a game that didn’t quite come together against Australia, a win against Fiji that felt like a loss due to the poor levels of performance only to be turned around by an outstanding game against New Zealand that was going Wales way until the 63rd minute and a triumphant win against South Africa.
Have Wales finally got the winning formula right? Dan Biggar seems to have made a very dramatic impact on the team, helping to make the forwards and backs work cohesively and finding creating attacking lines. Watch any highlight reel and you may think he was the only player who did any tackling – definitely the one to watch for Wales!
This is going to be a very exciting year for international rugby and I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing it all unfold. Will we see any big surprises come in? Only time will tell, but it sure does look promising for the Northern Hemisphere.