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What the pundits said after the opening round of the Autumn Nations Series

What the pundits said after the opening round of the Autumn Nations Series

What the pundits said after the opening round of the Autumn Nations Series

The Autumn Nations Series got underway this weekend with two blockbuster games providing a hatful of tries for fans and pundits to enjoy.

Here’s what those looking on made of the opening performances after Scotland’s 60-14 win over Tonga and Wales’ 54-16 defeat to New Zealand.

Wales 16-54 New Zealand

Wayne Pivac’s side came up against an inspired Beauden Barrett who scored two tries on the day he won his 100th All Blacks cap as New Zealand returned to the top of the world rankings.

Barrett’s tries were both interceptions – the first of which after just three minutes as he collected a pass from his old New Zealand Under-20s teammate Gareth Anscombe, in his first Wales game since 2019 after a serious knee injury.

Anscombe recovered from the early setback, on just his fourth game back, and kicked two penalties before being replaced by Rhys Priestland after 47 minutes.

And the pundits were impressed with Priestland’s impact off the bench as his clever kick through allowed inside centre Johnny Williams to grab Wales’ only try of the game in the second half.

Former Wales centre Jamie Roberts tipped Priestland to potentially start against South Africa next week, even with Dan Biggar returning to the fray.

On Amazon Prime Video, Roberts said: “He’s just a comfortable player, a very clever and experienced player.

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“Let’s not forget he’s a 50-cap international. He’s a top guy and he’s going well domestically with Cardiff and deserves his call-up.

“He’s really put a question mark over the No. 10 jersey selection for next week.”

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton agreed with his old teammate, adding: “Rhys Priestland coming off the bench did really well.

“It was good to see him coming on.

“[He’s] really put pressure on the No.10 selection for next week.”

Scotland 60-14 Tonga

Scotland ran in ten tries against Tonga with four from Kyle Steyn and two from Rufus McLean on the wings, but former captain John Barclay believes both could miss out against Australia this week, such is the strength of depth in Gregor Townsend’s side.

Writing in The Times, Scotland, Barclay said: “Scotland know exactly how they want to play. Carrying on from a positive Six Nations, I marvelled at their intensity and concentration in sticking to the task.

“The challenge that awaits on Sunday against Australia could not be more different, though. And as far as selection is concerned, I expect Gregor Townsend to revert to the tried, tested and successful.

“That means neither of Steyn and McLean in the starting XV. What their performances have done is given Gregor the power to put pressure on the established players, who now know that a pack of hungry and capable successors are ready and waiting.

“Darcy Graham has more than earned the right to start on one wing, and what he brings in those ballerina-esque twinkle toes, Duhan van der Merwe offers in brute physicality.

“You cannot underestimate the value of having a man that size providing targets in attack. That’s before we get to the fact that Van der Merwe has arguably been Scotland’s best player for the last 12 months, and is coming off the back of three Lions Tests.”

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