What autumn. A feast of great rugby in all different styles played in front of excited and capable crowds in our great citadels.
Everything has been a great boost for our game and leaves you wanting much more. Rugby World Cup 2023 is going to be amazing, but first we have two Six Nations to savor.
First I want to see the resurgence that is happening in the Northern Hemisphere. Saturday was the first time the three giants from the southern hemisphere lost to opposition from the Six Nations on the same weekend since November 2002, when England beat the All Blacks, Ireland beat South Africa and France beat the Australians.
England’s players celebrate a try during their win over South Africa on Saturday
It is a development that should have been made a long time ago and it is vital because the Six Nations are the foundation of our international game.
The south has been in command of the proving ground and the World Cups for far too long, to the point of providing the four semi-finalists of the World Cup in 2015.
The Six Nations must be as strong, vibrant and competitive as possible. Not just a fantastic day, rugby should be as good as any on the planet and that should be the case in a few weeks.
I dream of a day when the Six Nations provide three or, who knows, maybe all four semi-finalists in a World Cup. Why not? You can pass.
England should certainly be one of those teams and although it was not a flawless campaign, I am full of optimism and hope because you can see the quality of the players and feel a new energy and ambition.
The rejuvenation of the team should have started earlier, right after the 2019 World Cup, and France has been ahead of us in that regard, but now it is underway and there is plenty of time for this team to develop and become the one. better. in the world.
Wales beat Australia in what was an impressive weekend for the Six Nations teams
The public is back on board: Twickenham was in awe for the Springboks visit on Saturday and it was a refreshing experience.
First, let’s emphasize the positive aspects of which there are many. A new generation is stepping up and taking responsibility for leading this team.
Marcus Smith is the real deal, a great talent and first-rate goal kicker with nerves of steel, while Freddie Steward is a fearless giant who dominates the airways but also has the football skills that today’s fullback requires.
Henry Slade is becoming the fulcrum of midfield and England boss Max Malins had class when he replaced Manu Tuilagi and Raffi Quirke looks like a real handful.
With many injuries on the front row and Mako Vunipola being sent, perhaps temporarily, to Coventry, Jamie Blamire and Bevan Rodd stepped up. They did well and even if they are not top picks in the Six Nations, their experiences over the past three weeks will serve them well.
Courtney Lawes had a good run and set the example when asked to captain the team, Maro Itoje roamed with good results as usual and the back row was a tackling machine.
Ben Youngs mostly played with real pace and tempo, although that dropped a bit at times on Saturday and he will have to repeat that faster version of his game more regularly to keep the youngsters at bay in the scrum half.
England also had tangible guts and spirit. There were reports of a stressed group not smiling and not having much fun with Eddie Jones proving to be a very tough foreman. Well, I didn’t feel any of that.
France ended their 14-game losing streak against New Zealand with a 40-25 win
Now the things to work on, because there are also many. And this is not a negative, there is never a better time to examine your performance than after a remarkable victory. And a Monday morning report would likely conclude that South Africa screwed it up.
I have no idea why the Boks replaced Handre Pollard and Cobus Reinach in the fourth quarter, the media had guided South Africa through England’s early storm and put their team on the road to victory when they were swept away.
England are still struggling to play at the pace and tempo they will need to take the next step. They did it for 25 minutes in the first half, but then they took their foot off the pedal and never regained control of the game.
Second, you’re not going to win a lot of tests when you concede 18 penalties and on another day that streak of 10 penalties in a row in the second half would have resulted in at least one yellow card. Some of those penalties were due to sheer pressure from Bok, but others were simply careless and unnecessary.
Finally, going forward, England should assume that neither Owen Farrell nor Tuilagi start. Let me explain. With Farrell supposedly gone for at least three months, Smith is now in possession of the No. 10 Six Nations jersey.
Farrell will undoubtedly be in contention again, but it must be a direct selection between him and Smith and if Smith prevails, Farrell must go to the bench because England will not fulfill his potential with him playing at 12.
As for Tuilagi, he is so cursed by injuries that his availability has become an occasional advantage. Hopefully one day he’ll put together a series of tests again, but England must assume he won’t. So the search for a long-term internal center is underway.
Should England consider moving Henry Slade to 12th place, where he performed very well the Saturday after Manu’s departure? And if Slade is the solution at 12, who plays 13? This is the biggest selection puzzle Jones has to solve.
The English ship is sailing in the right direction, now we have to trim the sails, fine tune and really get her moving at high speed.