It was predicted in the previous Ten Nations update that after the last few weeks matches true challengers to the title would emerge.
And it was a prediction realised with England’s victory over Australia in Melbourne seemingly making the 2016 Ten Nations tournament England’s bikkies to lose.
In a nutshell we now have a situation where England sits top of the table undefeated with a full ten-point buffer – with only one real match left to be played against South Africa.
A good place to be, to say the least. To put it into perspective the only other teams currently undefeated are South Africa and New Zealand who still have five real-world potential banana skins on which they might come a cropper.
Put down November 12 at Twickenham as a huge match in deciding who gets number one.
That said England are the only team Northern Hemisphere still in contention at the halfway making noises about Northern Hemisphere dominance somewhat premature.
The field really has now England, South Africa and New Zealand as the three main challengers with only Australia and Argentina with any chance at all to climb to the very top.
Upcoming Rugby Championships fixtures should see that field narrowed even further. Regardless it’s hard to see the arrowroots going outside this top group.
Below the top challengers we have Wales who had their hopes for the title finally put to bed at Westpac stadium by the All Blacks. Then there’s Ireland who showed world class bad timing in their record win in South Africa only for it to count for nothing in losing the 10N fixture the following weekend.
Ireland actually sit above Wales on current standings however Wales’s additional real world fixture at the end of the year should give a good chance at finishing over the top of the Irish.
France sit level with Wales on the table for the time being however with their only real world matches against New Zealand and South Africa to come, keeping up with or overtaking Wales will be a challenge.
At the bottom of the table Japan are stoically still currently holding strong over Argentina and Australia. However the lack of scheduled top class matches has made it very hard for the Cherry Blossoms to make any meaningful impact on the tournament from the start.
And so the tournament moves into its second half and the Rugby Championship partnered fixtures. Things get back under way on August 27 with this year’s Australia versus New Zealand clash followed by Argentina hosting South Africa.
The Africans will want to be sure to watch out they don’t end up as Springbok dinner for the waiting Pumas as they have had issues in Argentina of late. A loss would make their tournament road ahead a heck of lot tougher.
While Australia will need to be desperate to keep their slim chances at the top this year when Wellington plays host to its second big 10N fixture for the year.
A great result for the city. Plenty to look forward to as the best of the southern hemispheres jostle for their right to challenge England for the 2016 title.
Current tournament standings are as follows.
3. New Zealand
4. South Africa
As always full results, upcoming fixtures and standings tables can be found on the tournament website here.