This year’s Autumn Internationals have been wrapped up with some outstanding performances from the world’s best rugby teams.
England finished their matches in style with a fantastic 37-21 win over rivals Australia to make it four wins out of four, helping to continue their strong form ahead of the Six Nations next year. Ireland also had a fantastic series, topped off by a massive win over global heavyweights New Zealand.
Ireland’s historic victory broke a legendary 18-game unbeaten streak for the All Blacks and showed the team’s immense growth in recent years. On the other hand, South Africa had a disappointing campaign, losing all four of their matches including their first-ever defeat to Italy.
Scotland enjoyed a mixed series, winning two out of their three games. The narrow 22-23 loss to Australia was a painful defeat, but a spirited 19-16 win over Argentina and a dominant 43-16 victory over Georgia. Scotland would have been hoping to pick up a win against Australia to make up for another devastating last-gasp defeat at last year's World Cup, but they can now look forward to the Six Nations.
Wales got off to an appalling start with a 32-8 loss to Australia, but they went on to win their other three games to restore some pride and end the Autumn Internationals on a high. It will now be interesting to see how they will fare in the Six Nations.
Who were the top players?
The Internationals saw a handful of players establish themselves as stars of the game.
Perhaps top of the list is Ireland’s Conor Murray, who put in a fantastic performance in Ireland’s historic win over New Zealand in Chicago. Scoring a try and kicking a penalty, the scrum-half cemented his reputation as one of the best number nines in the world.
England’s Billy Vunipola was another key player during the games, helping England to win all of their games and continuing the amazing form that saw him named as the team’s Player of the Year.
For Scotland, Jonny Gray was one of the standouts, proving himself to be one of the top tacklers in international rugby. Gray’s magnificent performance in the loss to Australia, in particular, certainly deserved a better result.
The top player for Wales was arguably Leigh Halfpenny, who kicked 17 points over the course of the games, while George North was another vital asset for the Welsh, who will be hoping to put their devastating loss to Australia behind them.
What’s next for the teams?
The 2017 Six Nations will kick off on February 4th when Scotland take on Ireland and England challenge France.
Both Scotland and Ireland will be hoping to push on from the Autumn Internationals and put in strong displays. For England, anything less than a victory could be considered a disappointment following their fantastic form in recent months.
However, Wales will also pose a strong challenge, while France and Italy cannot be disregarded. With many of the teams looking strong coming into the new year, we’re sure to see some great rugby in 2017 - not forgetting that British & Irish Lions places are up for grabs!