As the All Blacks and Wallabies kick off their tours across the northern hemisphere, fans are preparing themselves for matches against several nations including Japan, England, the USA, Wales and Scotland.
While plenty will tune in to follow the fortunes of their sides, the sad reality is that the spring tour is the poor sister of the Winter International Series and we all know it.
On the plus side, fans get to see their nation compete against a different opponent each week across a month or so with some of the matches having developed into ongoing rivalries like the England v Wallabies clash.
For the touring nation, it’s a great chance to see how they can adjust against a range of different styles and test both their game plan and squad depth. For the home nations they get to go up against most if not all of the big four and try and grab bragging rights over them until the next time.
But there’s something missing from these tours. With the growing global footprint of world rugby, these tours are now including other sides as well as some of the European powerhouses. As an example, on their upcoming tours, the All Blacks will play the USA in Washington D.C.
Growing the game is a good thing, and everyone should see the haka live at some point in their lives. But is anyone really unsure about how the Americans are going to go against New Zealand? The only question to be answered is how many more points the Kiwis will score than the 74 they managed against the USA when they played in Chicago in 2014. Wouldn’t it be better to see the All Blacks take on England at Twickenham?
The Winter International Series – now that’s a very different commodity. There is something so much more entertaining and rewarding about seeing two sides battle it out over a three match series.
Just think back to a few months ago when France came down to play the Wallabies. It was an enthralling series. Having stolen a last minute victory at Suncorp, France then fought back to tie the series in Melbourne and we went into the final match with everything on the line. After 240 minutes of hard fought rugby, only three points ended up separating the sides and fans were almost as emotionally exhausted as the players.
Fans and players from both sides got to know their opponents and it was intriguing to see how each coach adjusted as the series unfolded. Teams learned about each other and came up with new tactics on the fly to try and gain an advantage.
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The French commentators go absolutely berzerk after Les Bleus' stunning upset win in the 2nd Test. Will they be celebrating a series win tonight? ????
— Rugby on Nine (@RugbyOnNine) July 17, 2021
Even on those occasions where there is a dead third rubber, there is still so much for both sides to play for. When England toured Australia in 2016 and were 0-2 up with victory assured, both sides still put on a fantastic final Test in Sydney. The Wallabies desperately wanted to restore some pride and avoid a whitewash whilst England, newly under Eddie Jones, knew how important it was to get back on the plane without a single loss on their report card.
How exciting would it be now if the All Blacks were going to France to play them in a three match series? Seeing Antoine Dupont going up against TJ Perenara match after match. Or the Wallabies seeking revenge on the English for that 2016 tour as Eddie Jones tries to get his England ship back on course.
Some might say that with both styles of tours, we get a nice balance. A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B. But who wants balance?
In fact, if we’re thinking about gorging ourselves then why not add in some good old fashioned club games in there as well. So in the build up to the three matches against England at Twickenham, how about we see the Wallabies warm up against Harlequins, Exeter and Saracens. Now that sounds pretty wonderful doesn’t it?
The spring tour is fine. But the winter internationals are so much more enriching for fans and teams and the quicker we intorduce a northern series the better.