Tuesday, 27 November 2018

November Rugby Internationals 2018 - the State of the (Home) Nations

My utterly subjective and not-at-all one-eyed assessment of where each of the nations of the British Isles stand following the Autumn internationals...

1st - Ireland

To use a well worn cliché, Irish eyes are smiling. They may not be ranked world number one yet, but their utterly relentless display against the All Blacks earned them the tag of the world's best team on current form, since when they've bagged the World Rugby Team of the Year award to go alongside Coach of the Year (Joe Schmidt) and Player of the Year (Johnny Sexton).

Three questions:

- How will they deal with the burden of being favourites going into every game between now and Japan?
- Can they maintain form for the next 11months?
- How disruptive will Joe Schmidt's decision to step down after the World Cup be?

2nd - Wales

Can't say that Wales were massively inspiring this November, but they are discovering the art of winning ugly, something that:

- has eluded them in previous autumns and
- should serve them well in the months ahead.

Talk of Wales as World Cup contenders is, however, fanciful.

= 3rd England

Given how poor 2018 had been, Eddie Jones will be pleased with the improvements England made this November, particularly at the scrum, the breakdown and in defence. If (and it's a big IF):

- they can keep key players largely injury free and
- Eddie gets selection right (not a given, by any means)

then England can at least look forward to emerging from their pool at the World Cup.😆

= 3rd Scotland

Scotland remain an enigma - oscillating between brilliance and mediocrity, often in the same game. A 50% return this November reflects this lack of consistency, although the comprehensive victory over Fiji now looks all the more impressive when set aside the magnificent Fijian win in Paris.

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