Autumn Internationals – Work in Progress 2023 🍁
We all want to celebrate the return of International Rugby with crowds and let us be a little more understanding of the difficult protocols still in place for players and management! It is not easy and by and large we can be grateful.
I sense that the best of the Autumn Rugby is to come – whether it be Ireland and France against the All Blacks or Scotland to confirm their strong move up the rankings with a win against the World Champions and if not, then England can finish in style against a Springbok team who must almost be out on their feet, and missing key players. But they will want to win that last one at Twickenham most of all.
It is clear to me that the attacking styles of each team are coming to the fore now. I have been so impressed with Scotland’s growing confidence and they have match-winners in key positions. Last season was no fluke and they should have won the Six Nations. South Africa beware. It is down to Scotland to play with courage and flair alongside their newfound physical aggression. It’s a one-score game.
I always thought that Ireland’s game against the All Blacks was the pick of the series. After thrashing England in March, a 60 point haul against Japan is a surprise but not to Farrell who is quietly going about his job. Kudos. The players openly believe in him and they play to their strengths. You have to believe that the All Blacks are in a wonderful vein of form and may be too strong, but the Irish crowd will narrow that gap and could prove the difference.
You have to feel for Wales who are crippled with injury but they have learnt much already and have a depth of back rows for example which will be valuable. Basham is a real find, and there is life after Wyn-Jones after all! They clearly prioritise Six Nations given their lack of resources and the defending champs will be right in the mix undoubtedly.
What to make of an underperforming England who are great exponents of putting weak teams to the sword as they did with Tonga and the England 2nd XV would have done the same. It took Marcus Smith to bring the crowds to their feet but we have already seen that Tuilagi and Slade should start in the centre of midfield. Henry Slade is the quality centre in European ru
gby and I am still bewildered how Bundee Aki could ever have been selected ahead of him for the British & Irish Lions. It goes to show that England’s self-inflicted long-running poor tactical approach hurt many of the players, Jonny May included. The most damaged is George Ford who is so talented and showing it at Leicester but without injuries may not find his way back. Notice how the pace of Smith and Furbank too makes a difference at 10 for the first time in many years. Farrell kicks goals and is the defined leader which holds value and I understand the Smith Farrell axis but this will not win a World Cup. If it is true that Jones would like his players do the talking rather than him then this is welcome but his recent outburst leaves the question hanging.
Finally, the fancied finalists for 2023 meet up in Paris and France v New Zealand has a rich history. Expect plenty to be read into this result! France has already shown their tricolores and are the best prepared in the North to take on the Southern Hemisphere for the William Webb Ellis Cup. Lest you forget it is the 200th anniversary of when he surprisingly picked up that ball and ran with it, no thought of kicking ahead !!
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