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Autumn Nations Series Week Three: Talking Points

Autumn Nations Series Week Three: Talking Points

Autumn Nations Series Week Three: Talking Points

Week three of the Autumn Nations Series always promised plenty and, across an action-packed 48 hours, it delivered everything and more.

Scotland pushed South Africa all the way, Ireland overawed New Zealand and England recorded an eighth successive win against Australia – and that was just Saturday.

On Sunday, France warmed up for their own All Black challenge by beating Georgia before Wales and Fiji played out an absorbing game in Cardiff.

Here are the key talking points.

Sensational Ireland refused to be intimidated 

It was not the result that was the most impressive aspect of Ireland’s latest historic victory over New Zealand in Dublin on Saturday – it was the manner in which it was achieved.

A week after dismantling Japan 60-5 with a free-flowing attacking display, Ireland produced yet another sensational performance to take down the world No.1 side on home soil again.

From the very first whistle, the home side showed their ambition and after Andrew Conway’s early break, it was not long before James Lowe finished a superb backline move in the corner.

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Despite the All Blacks taking the lead into the half-time break, Ireland showed no signs of doing anything different in the second half as they started at a breathless pace once again.

Two more tries from Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris were just reward for their attacking endeavour, forcing New Zealand to make more than 250 tackles over 80 minutes.

Andy Farrell praised his side for their bravery after Ireland’s 29-20 triumph – their third win in five Tests against the All Blacks – and they certainly deserved all the plaudits after this showing.

Scotland ‘shot themselves in the foot’ on Hogg’s big day

It was the story of two try doubles at BT Murrayfield. 

Makazole Mapimpi scored one either side of half-time to help South Africa wear down Scotland, winning 30-15 in Edinburgh.

And for the hosts, captain Stuart Hogg also crossed once in each half with his 24th score for his country drawing him level at the top on the all-time Scottish try scorers list.

Hogg was left frustrated on the day he became the most-capped full-back of all time, overtaking Irishman Rob Kearney, with his 87th start in the No.15 jersey.











Scotland showed glimpses of a blueprint that could overturn the world champions, Finn Russell spraying kick-passes left and right to help unpick the physical Springbok defence.

But in the words of Scotland’s captain, they “shot themselves in the foot” by giving away multiple breakdown penalties through ineffective clear-outs as Gregor Townsend’s side never managed to get a grip on the game despite leading 10-8 at half-time.

South Africa dominated possession and territory and with Mapimpi’s two nice finishes plus the boots of Elton Jantjies and Handré Pollard as well as one Frans Steyn monster penalty, they had too much for Scotland who could not muster much in the final quarter.

Powerful Argentina scrum a match for anyone 

Argentina ended their long wait for a win in Treviso but will have seen the step up that will be required to back it up when they take on Ireland next week.

In some ways, this was a very Irish performance from Los Pumas, who dominated Italy in the air and were devastating at the breakdown.

The Argentina team stand for the national anthem











Leading by example, Julian Montoya was a constant menace at every ruck, winning turnovers to kill Italian momentum on more than one occasion in the first half.

And in Juan Martin Gonzalez, Argentina look like they might have another great flanker to choose from, with the back five of their scrum unquestionably the strength of the team.

Now time for France to prove they can tackle bigger challenges 

France ran in six tries and proved too strong for Georgia, but there are still question marks over whether this team will be able to follow in Ireland’s footsteps and see off the All Blacks.

The combination of Matthieu Jalibert and Romain Ntamack looked more comfortable than a week ago, playing 50 minutes with the duo at 10 and 12 respectively before Jalibert shifted to full-back and Ntamack to fly-half for the last half-hour.











The problem for France was how lateral their attack was for large periods, struggling to break down the Georgian defence. Against an All Black defence that repelled countless Ireland attacks in Dublin, even in defeat, that will be a concern for France.

Under Fabien Galthié they have been incredibly clinical but that was not the case here and it will need to be at the Stade de France next weekend.

Poor discipline cost Flying Fijians 

The final scoreline of 38-23 clearly flattered a Wales side that struggled for the vast majority to impose themselves on an ill-disciplined Fijian outfit.

The visitors were down to 14 when wing Eroni Sau was sent off 25 minutes in and after receiving two more yellow cards, they ended up playing a quarter of the game with just 13 men on the field.











But Wales, themselves down to their bare bones with many senior stars on the treatment table, were only one point ahead before Louis Rees-Zammit scored in the 73rd minute, leaving many to question what would have happened if Fiji could have kept referee Nic Berry’s cards in his pocket.

Wayne Pivac admitted afterwards that there was plenty to improve ahead of Australia’s trip to Principality Stadium in their final Autumn Nations Series clash next week.

Fijian flair kept them in the contest throughout and certainly whet the appetite for when the two sides will meet in the Rugby World Cup 2023 pool stage.

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