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Autumn Nations Series Review: Guinness Six Nations sides

Autumn Nations Series Review: Guinness Six Nations sides

Ireland celebrate Autumn

As the dust settles on the Autumn Nations Series, it is time to look back on how the teams got on, and in the spotlight this time are the Guinness Six Nations sides.

All the teams recorded statement wins, as Italy ended their losing streak; England, Ireland and France went undefeated, while Scotland and Wales earned narrow victories over Australia.

Scotland

Scotland kicked off the Autumn Nations Series with a big win against Tonga, Kyle Steyn picking up four tries and Rufus McLean adding two on debut, while Pierre Schoeman was another player to score on his Scotland bow as they prevailed 60-14.

As October became November, the Scots got off to a flying start with a tight 15-13 win over Australia, coming from behind twice as Finn Russell held his nerve to kick the winning penalty.

The win saw Scotland stretch their unbeaten run to four and made it a hat-trick of wins on the spin over the Wallabies, but Gregor Townsend’s men did taste defeat the following weekend against world champions South Africa.

The Springboks came away from BT Murrayfield with a 30-15 win, despite skipper Stuart Hogg’s try double which left him one away from the outright Scotland record.

That record would come in the 28th minute of their game against Japan, as Hogg racked up his 25th try in the tartan of Scotland to surpass Tony Stanger and Ian Smith.

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His try helped Scotland to a 29-20 win which sees them end the year seventh in the World Rugby rankings.

Wales

Wales celebrate after Rhys Priestland kicks a penalty to win the game

Wales were also victorious over the Wallabies, defeating Australia on the final weekend having also recorded a win over Tonga the weekend prior.

Their Autumn Nations Series began with a visit from the All Blacks, who inflicted a 56-14 defeat, and things didn’t get any easier as the Springboks came to town.

The world champions were held to 23 points, but Wales could not find the try line with all 18 of their points coming from the boot of Dan Biggar in a narrow defeat.

Wales then ran in six tries against Fiji on their way to a 38-23 victory as Ryan Elias bagged two tries before getting another the following week as Wales took on the Wallabies at the Principality Stadium.

Rhys Priestland had nerves of steel to kick the home side to a 29-28 victory at the death as Wales go into the defence of their Guinness Six Nations title on the back of two wins.

Italy

Italy began the Autumn Nations Series with the formidable challenge of the All Blacks in Rome and put in a solid performance before New Zealand broke away late on to emerge 47-9 winners, Dane Coles and replacement Asafo Aumua both scoring twice.

The margin of defeat was narrower against Argentina, with Paolo Garbisi again on target with the boot, kicking Italy to 16 points as Stephen Varney got the home side’s only try in a 37-16 defeat.

But against another South American side in Uruguay, Italy got their first win in two years to open new head coach Kieran Crowley’s account in charge.

Two debutants provided the Azzurri’s tries, Pierre Bruno crossing first before Hame Faiva added Italy’s second to secure victory against a spirited Los Teros outfit.

England

Marcus Smith Player of the Series

England, the world’s No.3 side, got their Autumn Nations Series up and running by scoring 11 times at Twickenham to inflict a 69-3 defeat on Tonga, who had Viliami Fine sent off with 11 minutes left.

Jamie George, Jonny May and Ben Youngs all bagged braces as Henry Slade and Marcus Smith shared kicking duties as England strolled to a win.

Up next was the test of old enemy Australia, the two have served up some titanic clashes in the past, but this time England’s young guns defeated the Wallabies.

Jamie Blamire and Freddie Steward went over for England while Australia were unable to score a try, fly-half James O’Connor kicking five penalties as England came away 32-15 winners.

That victory set up the rematch of the 2019 World Cup final perfectly, as England took on South Africa for the first time since that momentous meeting in Japan.

And it was England who got revenge, Marcus Smith continuing the theme of nerveless kicks with a late penalty to secure a 27-26 victory in front of a roaring Twickenham.

France

Romain Ntamack

That English roar was matched by the French as they witnessed Les Bleus put the All Blacks to the sword in a 40-25 victory for the ages.

France had eased into the mammoth clash with a 29-20 victory over Argentina, with Thibaud Flament and replacement Peato Mauvaka scoring tries.

Mauvaka would go over the whitewash twice more as France welcomed fellow Europeans Georgia and his two tries were matched by Damian Penaud en route to a 41-15 victory.

But the best was saved for last, as France raced to a 24-6 lead over New Zealand at half time, and it was Mauvaka again spearheading their attacking play.

He scored twice in the first half, as Romain Ntamack also went over, as New Zealand went in with their biggest ever deficit at the break.

The All Blacks, of course, came roaring back but it was a sublime piece of skill from Ntamack, who ran the ball from his own dead ball before pulling off a no-look pass, that not just stopped the charging New Zealanders, but also made the rugby world sit up and take notice as France kicked on for a famous 40-25 victory at the Stade de France.

Ireland

Van der Flier

Perhaps the All Blacks were still smarting from their defeat to Ireland, who recorded their third victory in five games against New Zealand in a tremendous clash.

Ireland had begun the Autumn Nations Series with a 60-5 win over Japan, which was perhaps a sign of what was to come.

Johnny Sexton won his 100th cap and Andrew Conway bagged a hat-trick as the men in green ran in nine tries against the Brave Blossoms.

Up next was the visit of the All Blacks to the Aviva Stadium, and Ireland were forced to fight back as a try from Codie Taylor put New Zealand 10-5 up at half-time.

And fight back Ireland did, first through Ronan Kelleher who scored three minutes after the break, with Caelan Doris adding a second with 50 minutes gone.

The All Blacks weren’t done yet as Will Jordan went over but four penalties from a combination of Sexton and Joey Carbery moved the game out of the grasp of New Zealand, much to the delight of the Dublin crowd.

Ireland brought the whole Autumn Nations Series to a close with victory over Argentina.

Josh van der Flier got Ireland off to a flyer, scoring in the tenth minute before the home side added two more tries before half-time.

The flanker scored again after the break as Ireland came away 53-7 winners, shutting out Argentina in the second half to stretch their winning streak to eight games as they head into next year’s Guinness Six Nations full of confidence.

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