Okay so the heading may be a bit of an exaggeration but yesterday the home countries all recorded important wins – 3 against the Southern Hemisphere giants (at least they were this time last year).
Wales beat South Africa, but then who doesn’t these days? Justin Tipuric was very impressive and there were suggestions that Sam Warburton’s place may be under pressure. In view of the nasty knee injury that Dan Lydiate picked up against the Springboks, maybe Sam might get the number 6 shirt at least in the short term – the change certainly worked for Chris Robshaw.
Predictably Scotland beat Georgia and they are looking good for the 6 Nations.
Ireland completed a memorable treble over the SH by stopping the wallabies drive for a Grand Slam – and Joe’s men will be a right handful in the 6 Nations.
The All Blacks ground out a win over France and ended up with a memorable 2016, bearing in mind they lost more than 800 caps at the end of the World Cup. But some of the shine from their Rugby Championship romp went off on the tour and both Ireland and France demonstrated that NH teams can be highly competitive against them.
After their first win against the Springboks last week, Italy were brought back down to earth by Tonga – the only prediction I got wrong.
The Pumas played their best game on tour against England (why does everyone raise their game against us?) but it wasn’t enough to win – even with England down to 14 for over 80 minutes (7 in the red before the halftime whistle was finally blown).
At one point England only had enough on the field for a rugby league team.
It looked ominous for Eddie’s men when the Pumas scored just before and after halftime – 16-14 with 38 minutes still on the clock and 2 men down.
I am a big fan of Elliott Daly, but the tackle was reckless and stupid – there are undiscovered tribes in the Amazonian jungle who know that you can’t hit a bloke in the air! It could have been costly to England – it certainly was for Elliott – £22,000 when he’s not available next week.
England stood steady and with the help of the bench pulled away and in the end finished comfortably ahead. The first up tackling will have worried the coaches but you can’t fault the endeavour and fitness that got them the win.
The win would have been secured much earlier if Owen Farrell hadn’t, uncharacteristically, had a bad time with the boot. In the end it didn’t matter and England roll back to Twickenham looking for 14 on the bounce (13 under Eddie Jones). Australia will not be handing out any Christmas presents and next week will be hard – for both teams.
England’s big problem will be sorting out 23 who are fit to lace up a pair of boots. The injury list has expanded week by week – it will be a real test of England’s strength in depth.
I talked yesterday about the dumb decision to draw the pools for Japan 2019 in May next year – two of the semi-finalists from 2015 won’t play again before then – their rankings will cause the inevitability of another ‘pool of death’
Before yesterday the top rankings were as follows –
South Africa, Argentina and the hosts are outside the two top seed blocks – come 2019 it is likely they will have moved up – good job World Rugby – still you know best dear!