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Ireland the only side to shine in another poor weekend for the Home Nations

Another week of Autumn Internationals, another week of disappointment for British and Irish rugby fans. England, Scotland and Wales all lost in a variety of different but equally frustrating ways leaving Ireland as the only side to register a win for the second week running.

It was not supposed to be this way. Ahead of these internationals it was said that the Home Nations had a real chance, South Africa and Australia were looking poor while Argentina were tired, and the Pacific Islands: no problem at all we said. How wrong we all were.

England were looking for victory over South Africa to ease some of the pain from their defeat against Australia last week. What they got though was a devastatingly tough to swallow 16-15 defeat.

Since then there has been a lot of criticism of Chris Robshaw for electing to take three points with a penalty near the end rather than kick to the corner, after receiving stick last week for the opposite.

To a certain extent the criticism is understandable, however when you look a little deeper it seems a touch harsh to criticise the actual decision, more the indecisveness surrounding it as Angus Savage explains in his blog.

What England can be pleased with though is that they got themselves in a position to win the game. Remember that this is a young side and they are still doing a lot of learning at this level. They can also raise a few smiles about the fact that in Parling and Launchbury they appear to have found a second row partnership that could really go on to dominate.

Wales were consigned to a third defeat in a row as they went down 33-10 against the All Blacks in what was, bizarrely, their best performance of the Autumn.

23-0 down at half time, Wales were looking slightly shambolic, though they were not aided by losing Jamie Roberts, Aaron Jarvis and Bradley Davis to injury in the first 20 minutes. Davis after a particularly ugly infringement from Andrew Hore who has been cited for his actions.

The second half was a different story though, with Wales producing their best rugby of the Autumn as they scored two try’s to give the final score a slightly more respectable look.

With Australia up next they will hope to carry though their second half form rather than their first half though with a number of France based players unavailable plus their injury problems, it could be a challenge.

So to Scotland who had promised much in decent performance as they lost to New Zealand and South Africa. With the top 8 spot lost they were expected to let loose and play with a real attacking verve against Tonga.

What the home fans were given instead though was a dire performance with the only points coming from the boot of Greig Laidlaw as they humiliatingly lost 15-21 to the Pacific Islanders.

So low was the performance that it prompted the resignation of Andy Robinson who had said after the game that ‘there will be consequences’. It represents a real low point for Scottish rugby, so often over the last few years have there been signs of life from the men in blue only for them to plunge again to new depths. It is time for change.

It was left to Ireland then to restore any semblance of pride and pleasure for British and Irish rugby and boy did they step up.

They scored seven try’s as they waltzed past Argentina 46-24, possibly unearthing a new hero of Irish rugby in the form of Craig Gilroy. It was a sizzling performance from the Irish but perhaps the most important aspect was the securing of a top 8 world ranking, so crucial for their World Cup seeding.

With the Irish backline finally clicking for the first time in a long time, they were able to unleash the attacking venom that has always been available to them if they could only use it. Sexton looked every inch a Lions fly half, while in the back row Chris Henry has made himself look pretty undroppable when Ferris and O’Brien return.

As with previous weeks, here is our Lions XV based purely on performances this week:

1. Cian Healy (Ireland) – A class act, so good in the loose and the tight.

2. Richardt Strauss (Ireland) – Has made the Ireland number 2 shirt his own, really pushing now for a red one to go with it.

3. Dan Cole (England) – Mr Consistent. Probably more sure of his place in the England side than anyone else.

4. Joe Launchbury (England) – This kid is good, very good. Performed excellently on his full debut, giving the South African pack a real taste of their own medicine.

5. Donnacha Ryan (Ireland) – In the absence of Paul O’Connell he has really stepped up, brilliant against Argentina.

6. Peter O’Mahony (Ireland) – Has performed well all Autumn and was strong again this weekend.

7. Chris Henry (Ireland) – Exceptional, the out and out 7 Ireland have so desperately needed in recent times.

8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) – Did well but in truth it was the lack of performance of others that puts him at the top of the pile.

9. Connor Murray (Ireland) – Distributed well, always looked a threat, has made the 9 shirt his own for the time being.

10. Jonny Sexton (Ireland) – The class fly half in Britain and Ireland, showed why on Saturday.

11. Craig Gilroy (Ireland) – A mesmerising performance, such an exciting player to watch.

12. Gordon D’Arcy (Ireland) – May not dazzle like he used to but D’Arcy must be one of the hardest people in the world to put down, stays on his feet for an unimaginably long time.

13. Jonathan Davies (Wales) – Rusty to start with, he grew into the game and his team grew with him. A top player.

14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland) – Outshone by Gilroy but scored twice and was always a threat.

15. Alex Goode (England) – In horrible conditions he was positionally astute and always reliable. Plays like a man with far more experience than he has.

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