November tours: Southern hemisphere dominance?
During June, the Six Nations teams sent their best down south for their annual attempt at invading famous rugby pitches such as Ellis Park, Sydney Football Stadium, Estadio Olimpico and Eden Park.
As usual they were met by stern defences and skilled teams to end up with a collective record of 10 losses, two wins and one draw against the four teams making up the newly established Rugby Championship.
Although the results were much the same as any year preceding 2012, the question remains whether they showed any improvement and would they build on what has been achieved during June?
England will be buoyed by their performance in the final Test in Port Elizabeth, their forwards had the Springboks under pressure for most part of the game, they hit the rucks with numbers and provided front-foot ball for their backline, but is that any different to what we have seen before?
Their back line still showed no creativity, Tuilagi managed few metres in the midfield and Barrit did not seem to be the playmaker required to set his backline on fire. Granted Lancaster experimented with a host of new players and looked very much like the team that threatened in the Six Nations but for a few results that went the wrong way.
Wales in my view have gone backward, missing Jamie Roberts in the midfield seemed to have influenced the incisiveness they showed on attack last year during the World Cup. There was little variation in their attack, and for poor decision making and execution by them in the last Test, could have come away with a draw.
Ireland showed it is possible for them to push even the best team in the world to the limit, but in my view they are not capable of sustaining the effort required to win week in and week out on a consistent basis. Is Brian O’Driscoll getting too old? McFadden was seriously exposed in defence and overall it seems the Irish are not capable of putting a forward pack together that can sustain 80 minutes of pressure. The only Irish player in my view that came out of the series with an enhanced reputation was Cian Healy.
Scotland struggled during the Six Nations. They showed intent to run the ball and, were it not for yellow cards, handling errors and poor execution, they could have won a match or two. When it came time to travel south, on a wet, cold and miserable Tuesday evening they managed to beat an Australian team (some would suggest a second string ) useless in wet weather. The fact is Scotland won the match with their ‘old’ style, which is simply to strangle and slow down ball at every opportunity and kick their goals.
Very little can be taken out of the French performances against a decidedly weak Argentinian team and Italy, well, they are just Italy.
They will have home advantage this time round, Australia will be encouraged about their performance over the all Blacks in their most recent test, Hansen seems to be intent on giving his whole touring squad a run (could there be an opportunity for an upset win?) and South Africa don’t seem to have yet figured out how to win.
Meyer has again called up Morne Steyn for duty, and after his woeful performances with the boot (which could have won an extra few games), it seems Meyer is still intent on Morne Steyn being his pivot.
Argentina can hold their heads up high after their first season among the big boys. Sure, I don’t expect them to make a massive leap forward in just one season, but Wales, France and Ireland will meet a bunch of blokes battle hardened after the Rugby Championship.
There are bound to be losses for Australia, South Africa and Argentina, it has been a long time since any of these teams had a perfect run in the north.
With both South Africa and Australia still hit by injuries and selection issues, this might be the best chance the Six Nation teams have to send them packing without a single win.
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