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What did the pundits say: It’s official, France are back!

What did the pundits say: It’s official, France are back!

Romain Ntamack Player of the Series

Yet another fascinating weekend of Autumn Nations Series rugby provided a whole host of talking points for the pundits following a bumper final set of fixtures.

Italy ended their 16-match run without a win with a 17-10 triumph over Uruguay, while Scotland defeated Japan 29-20 at BT Murrayfield to finish their Autumn Nations Series with three wins from four.

On Sunday, Ireland comfortably beat Argentina 53-7 in Dublin to complete a flawless November campaign.

The three big stories of the weekend though happened at Twickenham, the Principality Stadium and the Stade de France.

England were victorious over South Africa, avenging their 2019 World Cup final defeat, winning 27-26 at Twickenham.

Following on from that incredible win, Wales overcame 14-man Australia 29-28 with the final kick of the game in Cardiff.

But even more talked about than those two fantastic games was France’s phenomenal 40-25 win over New Zealand in Paris.

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It was a win that delighted former France hooker and Amazon Prime Video pundit Benjamin Kayser.

“I think we’ve got to say thank you to both teams for an extraordinary Test match,” he said.

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“Intensity from first minute to last, some great tries, sensational defensive units, I am so proud of the effort, I think it’s official, France are back.

“They haven’t won anything, but this is a big, big call to the world of rugby that the talent is there to shine and they’re getting better and better.”

England’s World Cup winning fly-half and fellow Amazon Prime Video pundit Paul Grayson said: “From an outsider’s perspective, watching that team get themselves into a position where they thought the game was won, maybe took half an eye off the ball for a second, then New Zealand are two points behind.

“Unbelievably, France regathered with impact from the bench, but today the amount of experience, intellectual rugby, capitalising on the situations they get into is so precious two years away from the World Cup.”

Penaud

Elsewhere, England recorded a famous victory over world champions South Africa, prompting former England prop and Amazon Prime Video pundit David Flatman to credit England’s creativity.

He said: “South Africa, the world champions, the team that pummelled England in the World Cup final, the world’s number one team, brought everything.

“They brought all their power, all their aggression, all their focus, all their will, for lots of this second half it felt like they were going to topple England, they were just going to batter them into submission.

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“It didn’t happen, this England team have guts, it stayed creative, they retained their intensity, they were relentless, they never gave up, I think this really is a significant, significant victory for England.”

Flatman’s Amazon Prime Video colleague and former England winger Topsy Ojo agreed about the importance of the win.

“It’s a huge moment, like Flats said, in that second half, South Africa brought the power game, and they’ll rue some crucial moments, some missed kicks and a try held up over the line by Malins, a turning point in the game,” he said.

“But for England to find that resilience, that resolve, to just have the few moments in the game where they resulted in points that was the big thing.

Makazole Mapimpi scores a try

“When they did have their moments, they got points on the board in the second half, and in the end the final crucial moment, Smith kicks the winning penalty, huge, huge performance.”

Over in Cardiff, Wales also recorded victory over Australia, meaning the Wallabies, the All Blacks and the Springboks all lost on the same day for the first time since 2002.

Former Wales centre and Amazon Prime Video pundit Tom Shanklin credited Rhys Priestland’s resolve with his match-winning kick at goal.

“Not the prettiest of wins, but all that experience Rhys Priestland has, to keep his cool under pressure like that, you can see what it means to Wayne Pivac,” he said.

“(It’s a) huge moment, 34 years old, comes on an nails the kick for the win, it’s all smiles.

“There are a lot of issues with Wales’ attack, but they’ve just done what it takes to get a win.”

Wales celebrate after Rhys Priestland converts the match winning penalty kick

World Cup winning former Australian fly-half Stephen Larkham was impressed with both sides, enjoying the performance of the Wallabies despite their third consecutive defeat.

“What an amazing Test match, unbelievable for Wales to finish that,” he said.

“Excellent game from Australia, the way they held the ball, their best game on tour, they deserved better with 14 men. Some individual stand-out performances that were outstanding.

“I think they got it back on track tonight. Their last two games against Scotland and England were not the level that they wanted to play at.

“We saw some really good rugby in the Rugby Championship, and they brought it out in this last game.”

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton was full of praise for Taine Basham, who received his second consecutive Player of the Match award.

“I think he’s been a shining light for Wales, not just today, but over the last four games, he’s made seven tackles more than anyone else on the Welsh team, great in attack with some turnovers to his name,” he said.

“I think it’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise that Wales have had so many injuries, because we’re now two years out from the World Cup, we’re entering a new cycle.

“There are going to be a lot of guys who are 35, 36 and Wales need to know whether there are young players who can step up against the top southern hemisphere teams.

“Taine Basham is definitely one of those guys, he’s really shone this past four weeks.”

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