There is something that troubles me about these Autumn Internationals, you see this is supposed to be the time of year where the Home Nations stand their best chance of victory against those routinely sublime Southern Hemisphere opponents.
The Southern Hemisphere giants are tired, right at the end of a long season, while we, in theory, are fresh and raring to go after just a handful of club games. The trouble is, I canâ€™t really see any of the Home Nations having what you might call a â€˜winningâ€™ series, i.e winning more than half their games.
Letâ€™s start with England; they play Fiji, then Australia, South Africa and finally New Zealand. Letâ€™s just hope that we can assume they will beat Fiji, but by that same token we must assume the All Blacks will beat England. That leaves England requiring wins against both Australia and South Africa.
Call me a pessimist, but that just doesnâ€™t seem likely, a win against either I can see, but both seems unlikely in the extreme.Â It is going to take more than the admirable defence of Brad Barritt and the barnstorming running of Tuilagi in the midfield to get two wins there.
Before the injury curse stuck Ireland like it was the flu, I had high hopes for them this Autumn. With Argentinaâ€™s players going for well over a year without a break, I couldnâ€™t see them challenging the men in green, while I though after the pain of their New Zealand tour, Ireland would front up and win against South Africa.
Shorn of Oâ€™Drsicoll, Oâ€™Connell, Best, Kearney, Ferris and Oâ€™Brien though it is hard to see them getting past South Africa, though I suspect they will still get past Argentina.
Scotland meanwhile face a tall order, a final game against Tonga ought to bring them one win, but games against New Zealand and South Africa seem unlikely to yield much success.
After being beaten in the Murrayfield rain two years ago, South Africa are unlikely to allow the same to happen again, though with England the following week they may rest a few players and it only takes that small mental drop to make all the difference at this level.
New Zealand though are a different matter, you can have all the rain you like, this All Black outfit is not going to drop its guard. This is a nation of Dunedin and Invercargill; rain is practically their culture.
So to Wales, the nation I see as the most likely to claim a â€˜winning seriesâ€™. With Argentina and Samoa first up anything other than two wins will be unacceptable. The third test against the All Blacks is where it all changes though; I just cannot see the All Blacks letting this slip.
Australia though represents a chance for Wales, and while it is only a slim one, it is a chance nonetheless. Following their 3-0 summer series defeat the Welsh camp are desperate to avenge those results. The Wallabies will be hoping to have a few of their star names back for this one and it could well be one of the games of the Autumn. From a Lions perspective it could be a key psychological battle too, with much of the Lions squad likely to come from this talented Welsh outfit.
I sincerely hope my pessimism is proved wrong this Autumn, particularly as this is a Lions year. We need all four nations to be full of confidence and turning in good displays against all opposition. We as fans should be getting behind each otherâ€™s teams because in just over 6 months time, we will be one team. (Of course we all get to knock 7 bells out of each other in February first!).
Hereâ€™s to being proved wrong!
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