Not much to shout about after a poor opening weekend for the Home Nations


So the first weekend of the Autumn Internationals is over, and it doesn’t make great reading for the Home Nations so far, 3-1 to the Southern Hemisphere, with the 1 being England’s victory over Fiji.

Probably the most shocking result of the weekend was Wales’ 26-12 defeat by Argentina. Wales have been the great hopes of the Northern Hemisphere in recent months but since winning the Grand Slam they have now lost four straight matches.

The reality is though that we shouldn’t have been shocked by Argentina, they have been playing against the big 3 from the Southern Hemisphere all summer and have been highly competitive. Not a word that many of the Home Nations can often apply to their sojourn’s down south.

The surprise really came in how poor Wales were, Argentina were frankly not at their best, particularly in a ragged first half yet Wales were not able to capitalise.

In fairness to Argentina though, their back row was utterly dominant, led by the sublime Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe they completely outplayed their Welsh counterparts and left Rhys Priestland constantly on the back foot.

In fact had it not been for the hard yards of Scott Williams and Toby Faletau Wales would have had barely any front foot ball all game.

England by contrast had a much easier time of things as they ran out 54-12 against a Fijian side that showed much early promise before they soon ran out of steam.

Alex Goode in just his second game for England was the standout player, including a 10 minute spell at scrum half while Danny Care was in the bin, while Tuilagi and Sharples both scored twice each.

Tom Youngs on debut had a strong game, despite pre match concerns he hit every lineout, and got a spell on the field with his brother before being substituted.

The reality is though that this was a poor Fijian side, shorn of many of their French based stars they looked like an underprepared outfit. England should in reality have scored more but butchered a number of chances, something which worried Stuart Lancaster, as he said: “We need to maintain a high percentage of accuracy throughout.”

Following the England and Wales games was Ireland versus South Africa, the Springbok’s won 16-12 in a proverbial game of two halves.

Ireland were the better side in the opening half, going in 12-3 up after a very scrappy first 40, but one where their back row had really dominated the Springbok pack. Chris Henry in particular was impressive, completely outplaying Francois Louw on the floor.

The Springbok’s fought back in typical fashion in the second half, scoring an early try through Ruan Pienaar after sustained pressure led to a Jamie Heaslip yellow card.

From then on the Springbok’s nullified any chance of useful ball for the Irish and closed the game out nicely with a couple of penalties from Pat Lambie.

Scotland were on the receiving end of a somewhat unusual hammering from the All Blacks by 51-22, unusual not in the sense that it was a hammering (that isn’t unusual) but in that despite the score there were actually some big positives for Scotland.

In Tim Visser Scotland seem to have finally found a man who knows his way to the try line, if he keeps his scoring rate up he could very well become the first Scottish outside back to tour with the Lions since Gregor Townsend and Alan Tait in 1997.

They broke the line on a consistent basis, and have found a defensive pattern that against a side without the masterly Dan Carter at fly half will be very tough to break through.

The fact is though that this was a masterclass from Dan Carter, he had one of those days where every time he took the ball he looked likely to create something. His ability to dummy and step in one move and then use his handoff not so much as a fend off but as a method of propulsion is simply outstanding.

What the Lions would give to have a man of even half of his attacking capability available to them this summer. Speaking of the Lions, here’s our Lions side based purely on this weekend’s performances, it makes for quite surprising reading in some areas:

1. Grant (Scotland) – Coped well against the All Black’s front row and carried very well.

2. Youngs (England) – Fantastic debut, great in the loose & hit his lineouts.

3. Cole (England) – England’s rock. Plays like an extra back row in the loose.

4. McCarthy (Ireland) – Loved his confrontation against this big Springbok pack

5. Parling (England) – Fast becoming one of the leaders of this England side.

6. Johnson (England) – Another dynamic performance, growing with confidence with every game.

7. Henry (Ireland) – Outstanding. Played the Springbok back row off the park in the first half.

8. Faletau (Wales) – Wales’ one shining beacon in a dismal performance.

9. Blair (Scotland) – Always busy and offers real direction to his forwards.

10. Sexton (Ireland) – One missed penalty aside, there wasn’t a lot to fault in his performance.

11. Visser (Scotland) – This man could become a real star for Scotland and the Lions, outpaced Corey Jane, no mean feat.

12. Tuilagi (England) – Scored two tries in typically barnstorming fashion.

13. Earls (Ireland) – Always looked a threat, though opportunities dried up in the second half.

14. Sharples (England) – Scored twice, could have had a hat trick. He couldn’t have done much more to stake a claim ahead of Chris Ashton next time around.

15. Goode (England) – Sublime. He ran the England backline, playing almost as a second 5/8th than a full back, you would never have guessed it was just his second game.

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