Who will step up in the Autumn Internationals?

65 Have your say

    England celebrate their win over Australia in their 2nd Rugby Union test match at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, June 19, 2010. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    The Autumn Internationals take on an added hue of colour this year as the European teams, as well as Argentina, Samoa and Fiji, look to see how far they’ve traveled under the new law interpretations compared to their experienced SANZAR colleagues.

    And it’s always good preparation for the Six Nations in the New Year, which looks likely to be one of the most hotly contested championships for some time.

    By the look of this year’s Tri Nations, the signs are promising for the host nations to grab some psychological bragging points.

    Only New Zealand look the real deal with their end of year tour seeking to match their clean sweep of their SH brethren. Australia and South Africa are the more likely targets for getting some points on the win register. Argentina, Samoa and Fiji are likely to be in the mix as well.

    Who knows if France will have the wobbles or Wallabies on their minds when they meet up in the final game of the tour. First, they’ll be focusing on Fiji and Argentina.

    No doubt the French will be planning some revenge for their disastrous tour to South America in the summer, and given they know most of the Argentine team from their club rugby each week, it should be a tasty and tempestuous affair. Argentina can run with the ball when they want to as they showed in their last match against France.

    Felipe Contemponi will likely set the pace for this one, if he plays.

    England play New Zealand first up. The Hong Kong dead rubber on the previous week against Australia will have little bearing on the outcome. A loss against the Wallabies will see the All Black unbeaten run record broken.

    And the All Blacks seeking revenge as a result. Or a likely win for the men in black, and the All Blacks juggernaut rolls on – nearly unstoppable – into London. Neither result is a heartening prospect for MJ and the team.

    Still Johnson has taken to making some more positive chest-beating noises of late, claiming that England’s players are up for the task in terms of fitness and stamina. The Premiership has certainly been enlivened this season with tries flowing in most matches. Whether they have the skill set to match is the challenge, he believes.

    Of their four matches – Australia, Samoa and South Africa are the others – Johnson could be targeting this one for a result. With the All Blackss reported as saying they want a real match against England this time – a wind-up comment that should have every red-blooded English player on his toes.

    Wales need a win – badly. Australia at the Millennium will be their first task. After their June hammerings by the All Blacks, some Welsh pride needs to be restored in the team and Warren Gatland has a long road to travel towards the World Cup next year to deliver some welsh wizardry. If WC pools work out as many predict, the Wallabies are who they’ll face in the quarter-finals. The Welsh clubs have been running hot and cold in the Magners to date, and there mightn’t be enough time to get them gelling for this first match.

    Scotland wrecked one Grand Slam tour last season, and a Triple Crown. Andy Robinson will be looking to build on their successful Argentina tour by bloodying the noses of another Grand Slam hopeful. South Africa’s recent tours up north have been less than domineering given their IRB ranking and Tri Nations’ success last year. Peter de Villers is a coach under a lot of pressure, and with signs that a less than full Bok squad will once again tour up north, he shouldn’t be surprised if the Boks come unstuck again. It may not happen at Murrayfield, but the chances of them working through the Home Nations with four wins out of four are slight.

    The Boks face Ireland at the revamped Lansdowne Road, and the Irish will be mindful of making the inaugural test for the new stadium a memorable one and keeping South Africa 0 from 4 at home.

    Whilst Declan Kidney will no doubt want to name his strongest squad for the match, if he’s picking on form then the Leinster squad may have a lot of time on their hands or continue playing Magners club rugby in November. At the moment, only Luke Fitzgerald and Cian Healy (out of necessity) would make the team. Ulster (4th in league) and a resurgent Connacht (5th) would have better claims to complement the usual rump from Munster who lead the Celtic/Italian league unbeaten after first four matches.

    On their current form, Munster should be able to put out a strong side for one of Australia’s midweek matches which promises to be a humdinger in Thomond Park.

    Fiji and Samoa have set themselves up to play three test matches each. If both sides can get their full complement of players released from their clubs, these matches could have a lot of attractions. Wales are one of Fiji’s pool opponents next September, and both sides will be looking to lay down a marker when they meet in the only Friday night test match in round three. Wales will already have played another pool opponent in South Africa the previous week. Victories here would put a fair wind in their sails for the Six Nations in February.

    Samoa no doubt will be targeting the Irish front row when they meet up. Whether Ireland, without long-term injured Paul O’Connell and Leo Cullen, will be able to stand up remains a critical question for their success in the 6N and the World Cup. They’ll arrive battered and bruised from their opening encounter with the Boks.

    Italy will be looking to take their measure of World Cup pool opponent, Australia, in the third round. Presumably, their team will be more full of Treviso players rather than Aironi given their respective performances in the Magners League. Treviso have already pulled off two surprising but well earned victories, including hapless Leinster. Showing a willingness to run with the ball might rescue this match from being a mismatch between grunting forwards and a fleet-footed Wallaby backline who could run riot.

    All in all, with 22 ‘friendly’ tests involving the top 12 teams in the world, the November Internationals promise a feast of rugby – and some surprises – before they all meet up again in New Zealand in 12 months time.

    November Schedule:
    Sat, 6 Nov Wales v Australia
    Sat, 6 Nov Ireland v South Africa
    Sun, 7 Nov England v New Zealand
    Sat, 13 Nov Wales v South Africa
    Sat, 13 Nov Scotland v New Zealand
    Sat, 13 Nov Ireland v Samoa
    Sat, 13 Nov Italy v Argentina
    Sat, 13 Nov France v Fiji
    Sun, 14 Nov England v Australia
    Tue, 16 Nov Munster v Australia
    Fri, 19 Nov Wales v Fiji
    Sat, 20 Nov Italy v Australia
    Sat, 20 Nov Ireland v New Zealand
    Sat, 20 Nov Scotland v South Africa
    Sat, 20 Nov France v Argentina
    Sun, 21 Nov England v Samoa
    Sat, 27 Nov France v Australia
    Sat, 27 Nov Italy v Fiji
    Sat, 27 Nov Scotland v Samoa
    Sat, 27 Nov Wales v New Zealand
    Sat, 27 Nov Ireland v Argentina
    Sun, 28 Nov England v South Africa

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    The Crowd Says (65)

    • September 28th 2010 @ 4:04am
      Ben S said | September 28th 2010 @ 4:04am | ! Report

      Interesting stuff, pothale.

      There’s been some real tub-thumping from the Australian fans post-3N, and Deans will have to get some results to match that optimism. The World Cup is only 9 Tests away after all.

      SA need to get some results too. They’ve lost 8 (I think?) of the past 13 Tests, and have proven on various occasions that without Smit the team is utterly rudderless. Resting key players is all well and good, but you don’t want to be hitting the 3N next season searching for form and wins. Personally, I think SA need to inject some young blood like they did against Wales recently, but what’s the point if PdV pursues that same old kick and chase business?

      NZ… say no more. I can’t foresee any team getting near them.

      The Home Nations have as much to prove as Australia & SA: Scotland cannot buy a try, and having watched the Scarlets this season I was struck by just how poor the skill level of Sean Lamont is, and he is a key attacking weapon. With Phil Godman out it looks like Dan Parks will be the go-to man again, which doesn’t suggest long-term success, IMO; Wales have to convert ability into results. They have some wonderful players, but seem incredibly mentally fragile, as VC has pointed out on occasion – hence the OTT media bytes from Gatland. They sorely need to put in an 80 minute shift like they did against Australia 2 seasons ago, and offer some tactical maturity. Despite the experience of the spine of the team they keep getting sucker punched by the opposition; France need to prove that they are not a poor man’s South Africa (which they seem to be). In fact, I’d go further than that. France need … I don’t know. The summer losses were crushing, and the players seemed mentally broken post-match. It’s going to take a real job to galvanise that lot. I have suspicions that Lievremont is an imposter; England need to continue their attacking brand and hope that their young squad can show tangible progression with a minimum of two wins.

    • September 28th 2010 @ 6:01am
      Intotouch said | September 28th 2010 @ 6:01am | ! Report

      Why is Australia playing a midweek match against Munster?
      Why is only Australia playing a midweek match?

      • September 28th 2010 @ 6:10am
        Alders said | September 28th 2010 @ 6:10am | ! Report

        Where have you been for the last two years?

        • September 28th 2010 @ 6:35am
          pothale said | September 28th 2010 @ 6:35am | ! Report

          Indeed. And my apologies to Leicester fans. The Wallabies also face the Premiership Champions:
          7:30pm (LOCAL) Tue 9 Nov

          Are South Africa planning any midweek matches?

    • September 28th 2010 @ 6:54am
      Lazlo said | September 28th 2010 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      Jonno sounded relaxed and introspective in his last meda interview, but people are wondering if his squad will reflect current form or whether he’ll risk the psych advantage of a win over the Wallabies and go with some new players he’s looking at with a view to the RWC, players who’ll probably find their first international at Twickers a mite overwhelming.

      The talk in the London rugby pubs – at least the ones that will still let me in – is that he’ll have to field his strongest team against the ABs so as to not suffer an embarrassing wipeout.
      But than my Kiwi pals figure the ABs will settle for a respectable lead then practise back row moves.

      • Roar Guru

        September 28th 2010 @ 7:12am
        moaman said | September 28th 2010 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        I was impressed with the England “2nd string” side that played an enterprising game versus NZ Maori back in the June series.They came out all guns blazing,threw it around with gusto and generally contributed equally in what was an entertaining match.My question is this; If MJ wants to back up his talk with some action-who will he field v NZ as his “full-strength” side? Some of those impressive ‘dirt-trackers’ who showed a glimpse of what is required in the modern game? Or the ‘tried and true’ blokes who shared the spoils with the woeful Wallabies?

        • September 28th 2010 @ 7:19am
          Ben S said | September 28th 2010 @ 7:19am | ! Report

          I don’t follow? Did you watch the TWO Tests versus Australia? England were, by their own admittance, very poor in the 1st Test, but where far better in the 2nd Test, which was obvious in their play – they ‘threw it around’, and against the same Wallabies that played in the 3N.

          What does tried and true mean? Also, what talk does Johnson have to back up?

          • Roar Guru

            September 28th 2010 @ 1:30pm
            moaman said | September 28th 2010 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

            Ben S. “I don’t follow? Did you watch the TWO Tests versus Australia? England were, by their own admittance,{sic} very poor in the 1st Test, but where{sic} far better in the 2nd Test” Firstly Ben S-admittedly my recollections of those matches,in which I only had a passing interest,are now vague-BUT I certainly can’t recall England throwing the ball around much.Youngs scored an opportunist try from a scrum inside the Aus 22(2nd Test) if I recall correctly…and my impression was of more an attritional match that ultimately Giteau failed to secure for Aussie by missing a sitter.The first Test England had a dominant scrum and played their power-rugby& the Wallaby backs razzled a win.Could have/should have been 2-0 to Aus.Look in the dictionary for a definition of “tried&true”.And do you REALLY want specifics,times,dates and fingerprints on the murder-weapon for a description of the “talk” Martin Johnson does and has been doing?

            • Roar Guru

              September 28th 2010 @ 1:33pm
              moaman said | September 28th 2010 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

              ….My earlier point,which i hoped was mainly positive,was about the team that played in NZ and the attitude and game they brought which,imho,was brighter and better than what i saw in the Aussie matches.

              • September 28th 2010 @ 7:39pm
                Ben S said | September 28th 2010 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

                Thank you for the spelling corrections, moaman. I was rather tired, but thank you nonetheless.

                I wonder why you would feel it necessary to offer such a definitive and concrete conclusion regarding England having only a ‘vague’ recollection?

                Firstly, the Youngs try was not opportunist. It was pre-planned as the management had noted that Dean Mumm had a habit of leaving defensive gaps at the lineout. Also, Youngs did not score from inside the Australia 22.

                Secondly, the match wasn’t particularly attritional. England threw the ball about and ran it when possible. England dominated the re-starts, as NZ did, dominated the defensive exchanges, and constantly and purposefully challenged the Australian wide defence. Look for one Australian newspaper report that accused England of playing attritional rugby. The match highlights are available on the internet.

                Also, Australia didn’t lose because Giteau missed. You might, or might not, recall that Giteau’s 2nd try came from an obvious knock-on from Genia. That was 7 points that shouldn’t have been allowed. Further, Wilkinson also missed a kick in front of the posts, and if you want to delve into the realms of ‘could and should’, then I could easily suggest that England should have won the first Test given their absolute forward dominance.

                There is no dictionary definition for ‘tried and true’, so please help me a little.

                The atttitude shown in the Maori game was no different than the attitude shown in the 6N or the 2nd Test versus Australia. There can be no debate on that.

      • September 28th 2010 @ 7:21am
        Ben S said | September 28th 2010 @ 7:21am | ! Report

        ‘but people are wondering if his squad will reflect current form or whether he’ll risk the psych advantage of a win over the Wallabies and go with some new players he’s looking at with a view to the RWC, players who’ll probably find their first international at Twickers a mite overwhelming.’

        Johnson can only pick from the EPS squad, and is only allowed a handful of changes. His squad is therefore already picked. Also, the team that beat Australia was very, very inexperienced, so are you suggesting that he’d replace inexperienced players with more inexperienced players? Of the side that played Australia Lawes, Youngs, Ashton, Hape and Foden haven’t started a ‘proper’ Test at Twickenham.

    • September 28th 2010 @ 9:33am
      CG45 said | September 28th 2010 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      I can’t possibly see Wales beating a full strength Samoa or Fiji at next years world cup, and i really feel that Italy will fall right of the pace, possibly outside the top 16 or 17 if they don’t change the way they play.

    • September 28th 2010 @ 9:44am
      Viscount Crouchback said | September 28th 2010 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      I wish England would stop this ridiculous scheduling whereby they play the whole SANZAR mob plus some PI bone crunchers within the space of four weeks. This is the third year on the trot that they’ve attempted such an ambitious schedule and, frankly, it’s daft. It’s also an error that Sir Clive, after some early salutary lessons, never made again. Ireland’s approach is much more savvy.

      As for the chances of the northern teams… well, I don’t share the view that the GP has been good. Some of the stuff on display has been abject – fellows passing five yards behind their team-mates, awful goal-kicking, shoddy defence … and what’s happened to English mauling? Apart from Saracens, the English teams seem to have lost the art of the powerful driving game.

      Still, it’s good to know that the England EPS squad is fitter and stronger. There was a period around 2005-7 when the England national team was patently inferior to the best of the club teams – I think the opposite might now prove to be the case, and the England team will again be at least equal to the sum of its parts, rather than less. As such, I think they’ll win at least 1 of their 3 big games, which would be no great shakes but at least 1 better than they’ve managed in the last 2 autumns!

      • September 28th 2010 @ 11:50am
        Jiggles said | September 28th 2010 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        VC,

        Maybe the scheduling is designed to have a tournament feel about it. After all to go the distance in the WC you have to play and win about 7 matches in 7 weeks. After the NH teams finish the autumn tests and then the 6N they should be more prepared then the rigours of a tournament format then the SH teams come RWC time.

        Just a thought. I don’t know, do you feel this is plausible?

      • September 28th 2010 @ 12:40pm
        Hayden said | September 28th 2010 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        A bit of a stretch calling Saffacens an English team, old bean. It seems that from MJ’s squad, you could, as usual, pick a starting 15 of honest plodders, or a young, fast and skilled team. MJ usually goes with the former option. It is really time for him to pick the team he is planning on taking to NZ next year, and playing them no matter who the opposition is.

        • September 28th 2010 @ 7:42pm
          Ben S said | September 28th 2010 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

          ‘MJ usually goes with the former option.’

          No he doesn’t. That’s an absolute myth, Hayden.

      • Roar Guru

        September 28th 2010 @ 1:13pm
        Bay35Pablo said | September 28th 2010 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        VC, almost as bad as playing in the 3N year after year, hey?

      • September 29th 2010 @ 4:05am
        Ben S said | September 29th 2010 @ 4:05am | ! Report

        ‘As for the chances of the northern teams… well, I don’t share the view that the GP has been good. Some of the stuff on display has been abject – fellows passing five yards behind their team-mates, awful goal-kicking, shoddy defence … and what’s happened to English mauling? Apart from Saracens, the English teams seem to have lost the art of the powerful driving game.’

        The entire GP tournament to date has been ‘awful’, VC? Do you not think that’s slightly OTT given that the tournament is only a few weeks old?

    • September 28th 2010 @ 10:03am
      johnno42 said | September 28th 2010 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      posted once and it disappeared (made a change from “just not even appearing”) so ill try again:
      there are NO FRIENDLIES in international rugby!!!

      • Roar Guru

        September 28th 2010 @ 10:44am
        Poth Ale said | September 28th 2010 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Which is why I typed is as ‘friendly’ matches. Though if you look at the IRFU calendar, November and June tests are always categorised as F matches. Not sure what the other unions do.

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