So the International season is upon us. A time of year when our Southern cousins arrive on our shores to give us all a lesson in fast, expansive rugby for a few weeks. But maybe, just maybe, this year might be different.
I do love the Autumn Internationals, I look forward to them every year, although in Cardiff it does mean that thousands of ill-informed, drunken idiots descend on the city’s pubs and bars to shout obscenities and refereeing advice at the big screens, but it’s still all good fun. I mean, I don’t venture into town unless i’m going to the game, but i’m told this is what it’s like.
Wales have already put in one dour performance, a game when Australia cut through the fabled Welsh defence almost at will, and should’ve scored a lot more than the 32 points that they managed to rack up. The fact that Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate seemed to be playing in an Invisibility Cloaks greatly exacerbated this. Personally, I think the ‘Gatland-ball’ game plan of a load of big, strong, quick blokes just smashing it up the middle has had it’s day. Team’s have figured it out, they know how to deal with it, and more worrying the know how to exploit it’s weaknesses too, as Australia proved so admirably on the weekend.
Now, Ireland. I’m a little bit gutted I didn’t watch it live, I was a fireworks display with my daughter, so I recorded it and planned to watch it when I got in and so I avoided Facebook and Twitter for fear of the result being ruined, and then unfortunately a rather lovely man at the display loudly announced the result to his son while he was stood right next to me. Devastating. Anyway, the were tremendous, they nullified the All Blacks perfectly. It was the best performance I’ve seen against NZ that I can remember, and it shows how far they’ve progressed under Schmidt. There defence was superb, they used that famed to ‘choke-tackle’ to wonderful effect and I really liked that figure 8 during the Haka, I think it was a brilliant and fitting tribute to the late Anthony Foley.
England are probably going to clean-sweep their autumn series, as much as it pains me to admit it. Even without Itoje, I think that they will still be too strong and clinical for all the teams that they are playing. I feel that England have got all the ingredients to really take on the SH teams. They’ve got great players, massive strength in depth, and if they had a go i’m sure they could play free scoring, expansive rugby that we’d all love to see. But alas, International rugby is a results business, and i’ve no doubt that Eddie Jones will be happy with a 3 – 0 win, as long as it’s a win. Which is sad.