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What the pundits said: Ireland statement, Rees-Zammit brilliance and solid Steward

What the pundits said: Ireland statement, Rees-Zammit brilliance and solid Steward

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Another enthralling weekend of Autumn Nations Series action provided the pundits with no shortage of talking points as the drama played out over six matches.

Argentina and South Africa got the ball rolling on Saturday with wins over Italy and South Africa, respectively, while England, France and Wales were also victorious.

But the story of the weekend was in Dublin where Andy Farrell’s men secured just their second win over New Zealand on home soil, winning 29-20 at the Aviva Stadium.

The repeat of their historic 2018 triumph against the All Blacks was greeted by jubilant scenes at the final whistle, as described by ex-Ireland lock and Channel 4 pundit Donncha O’Callaghan.

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“What a privilege to be in this stadium after nearly 500 days of being away from supporters, we saw glimpses of it last week with Johnny Sexton’s try [against Japan],” he said.

“But just the emotion there as James Lowe put the ball of the pitch, right beside us there are sons jumping around with their dads, people embracing each other, what a beautiful moment.”

For fellow Channel 4 pundit Tommy Bowe, who represented Ireland 69 times during his career, the most impressive aspect of Ireland’s victory was the manner in which it was achieved.

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“It’s actually hugely emotional, there were dads, sons, brothers, sisters crying over that victory,” he said. “The whole place was absolutely rocking, a landmark victory for Andy Farrell.

Lowe moments

“For Ireland to win against the All Blacks, it’s an emotional night, an emotional performance and this is a real statement of where Irish rugby is going to go forward.”

The defeat for the All Blacks means they have now been overtaken at the top of World Rugby’s rankings by South Africa and former prop John Afoa admitted the visitors simply were not good enough.

“New Zealand will be disappointed but they didn’t really do much in the game. I think Ireland dominated for 80 percent of the game and they deserved the win,” he said.

Best of social: England defeat Australia at Twickenham

“I think Ireland came out in that second half and played really well, they scored two quick tries and New Zealand scored from the chip and chase but other than that they weren’t in it.

“It’s a hard one for them and they go to France next weekend, which will be hard as well.”

Elsewhere, Wales overcame Fiji 38-23 to get back to winning ways in Cardiff but not before the visitors gave Wayne Pivac’s side a scare despite being reduced to 14 men.

But the talk of the town after the game centred around the speedy exploits of Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored a remarkable solo try in the 73rd minute with his side only leading 24-23 at the time.

“That was a fantastic individual moment of brilliance,” said Amazon Prime Video pundit Sam Warburton, a former captain of Wales and The British & Irish Lions.

Louis Rees-Zammit

“It’s just a world class finish all over. His kick, his pace, you can’t coach that. What you want to do with Louis is give him the ball early and in space.

“That finally happened for his try. It was great weight on the kick. To put in a delicate kick like he did at full pace, it is so underestimated how hard a skill that is.

“Josua Tuisova tried to run his line, but Louis just completely gassed him. What he has is pace that separates him from most other wingers in world rugby. There is gas and then there is gas.”

Pivac praises Rees-Zammit’s express pace

Meanwhile, England made it two from two in their Autumn Nations Series campaign, following up their dominant 69-3 win over Tonga by downing the Wallabies 32-15 at Twickenham.

And Amazon Prime Video pundit and former England international David Flatman felt Eddie Jones’ side never looked in trouble as he hailed the performance of try-scorer Freddie Steward.

Steward

“The result was slightly skewed by the try in the last second but what it was about was England giving away far fewer penalties, their discipline was better,” he said.

“They were solid at the back because of Freddie Steward, completely reliable from day one, and when the opportunity presented itself – there weren’t many – they took the points.”

World Cup-winner Stephen Larkham agreed with Flatman but while he admitted that the Wallabies were not quite at the races at Twickenham, he insisted there was no reason to panic just yet.

“In the second half we just failed to get phases together. The pressure at the breakdown, the size of the England pack, our ability to be disciplined in different areas of the game,” he said.

“We didn’t have the territory in that second half. You have to look at the changes they’ve had coming on this tour, the new players that have come in, the combinations they’re building.

“There is only going to be an upside from this I think next week going int Wales, an opportunity to get some guys some game time and to solidify what we’ve done over the last 12 months.”

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