Wallaby coach Michael Cheika will once again head back for the Australian summer disappointed by the way his team capitulated against the English and now, shockingly, the Scottish.
The red card dished out to Sekope Kepu was the right decision and Cheika can have no complaints about this. What will be of great concern for the Wallabies is the ease at which the Scots broke their defence even with 15 men on the pitch.
The tries to Huw Jones and John Barclay were particularly disappointing from a coaching perspective, with barely a hand offered in defence on either of these two efforts. Call this fatigue and circumstance with the sending-off but 11 tries conceded in two matches must sound alarm bells for Australia as they build for Japan in two years’ time. One can commiserate with Cheika that certain players weren’t available on top of a long season, but 80 points shipped in the last two games is unacceptable.
The positives for the Wallabies were the two Fijian speedsters Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi. With a combination of pace and power they caused no end of problems for England and they also had their moments against Scotland. With the return of a fit and fresh Israel Folau next season, Cheika will have confidence that his backline will reinsert their credentials as a major attacking force. Kurtley Beale, who was very quiet on this tour, will be delighted to have Folau back in place.
The northern hemisphere teams more than had their moments against their southern counterparts this autumn and this bodes very well for the World Cup in 2019. For too long we have seen England and more recently Ireland be the lone standard bearers against the might of the southern hemisphere. Not anymore, with Scotland reinstating themselves at the top of the table.
The Scots were terrific against the All Blacks and imperious against the Wallabies. What a breath of fresh air they have given to the international game.
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Gregor Townsend is proving to be a very astute coach. The try to exciting centre, Huw Jones typified what Townsend was like as a player and what he wants to do with the Scottish team. It was a cheeky, brave and an absolutely brilliant piece of execution by Scotland as a weary Wallaby team turned their backs for a couple of seconds.
What Townsend has also done is improve the conditioning and fitness of the Scottish team so that they can compete for the full 80 minutes against the world’s best. Even if the Wallabies had 15 men on the pitch, I don’t think the result would have changed a great deal. They have strength in depth in their backline, highlighted by the absence of their star full back Stuart Hogg, who pulled up lame just before the kick off.
Scotland responded by scoring some glorious tries from all parts of the pitch. Everyone north of the border will be awaiting the England team with relish on the 24th of February in next year’s Six Nations.
With regards to England, they did not quite push on as all England fans were perhaps hoping given the impressive record that Eddie Jones has created since his arrival. They continue to be tough to beat, as illustrated during the Wallaby contest, but they lack star quality to truly put a team away.
Both forwards and backs still lack the ability to offload, a trait which we so often see from the All Blacks, Wallabies and now Scotland. Endeavour and the ‘head down’ approach will get England so far but it won’t be good enough to win in Japan.
Wales can be proud of their exploits against the All Blacks in another cracking autumnal encounter in Cardiff but once again what promised so much for them ultimately came to nothing. They were given a lesson in finishing by the New Zealand wingers, Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo. It becomes imperative that Wales beat an inconsistent South African team this coming Saturday to give themselves momentum going into a Six Nations where they have to travel to Twickenham and Croke Park.
Ireland continue to impress at home and are building nicely especially with an influx of young talent coming into their side. They comfortably beat the Springboks and Pumas in the cauldron of Croke Park and now they have to show that they can go to the likes of Twickenham and win away from home.
The losers this autumn have unquestionably been the French. They were the poorer side of a 23-23 draw with the Japanese last week to complete a dreadful November series. National coach Guy Noves must surely be replaced so that a new man can come in for the Six Nations and have two seasons to mould a French team that can be competitive in the World Cup.
It is mind boggling how poor the French have become given the talent they have at their disposal despite the foreign influx of players that continue to dominate the Top 14 competition. Louis Picamoles, Guilhem Guirado and Yoann Huget would get into most teams and the exciting Antoine Dupont at scrum half has all the tools to be a world class operator. France look off the pace in attitude and fitness and changes have to happen if they are to turn it around.
It has been a cracking year of international rugby culminating in a pulsating November between the two hemispheres. With two years to go until the 2019 World Cup in Japan the global game is in fine fettle with a number of teams set fair to challenge the All Blacks dominance.