As opposed to previous years, the 2014 Autumn Internationals saw the home nations compete well against their southern hemisphere opponents, notching up 5 wins over the ‘big 3’ which is the best they’ve done since 2002 and we all know what happened the following year! So does this bode well for next years Rugby World Cup?
Ireland were particularly impressive with convincing wins over both Australia and South Africa and Scotland surprised most by beating Argentina. But my focus over the past 4 weeks has been on England and Wales.
For welsh supporters there must have been a horrible sinking feeling at the beginning of their campaign when Australia snatched victory from them in the dying minutes only to be followed by a less than convincing performance against Fiji; all wasn’t looking good for Gatland’s boys going into the match against New Zealand. But something seemed to click for them against the World Champions and with Wales 16-15 ahead after 65 minutes, an historic victory for the first time in 61 years looked on the cards. But then as they always seem to do, New Zealand went up a gear and romped home victors. To say Wales had something to prove in the 4th test would be an understatement and against a rather sloppy Springboks side, they dug in and secured a win.
England on the other hand had a lot to prove from the outset and opening matches don’t get any tougher than against the World Champions. But other than an amazing solo try early on from May, England offered very little up front and only losing by 3 points completely flattered their performance. The same could be said about their performance against South Africa and Lancaster’s decision to stick with an out-of-form Farrell was being questioned from all sides. Changes were made in the team to face Samoa, with Ford given his first start at fly-half and he didn’t disappoint, kicking 13 points and playing a key role in Brown’s try. But the big test was yet to come against Australia, a must win for both teams and even though England continued to make stupid mistakes they managed to hold on to a vital victory.
All of this sets us up quite nicely for the forthcoming 6 Nations, especially the opening match on Friday 6 February 2015, Wales v England. The English will be looking for revenge following the hammering they took last time they visited the Millennium Stadium. But for this to happen, Lancaster and the rest of his coaching team have a lot of work to do and some difficult decisions to make, one of which could be whether or not to include Burgess in the squad. Gatland hasn’t got things easy either, there also needs to be a lot of work done with the Welsh squad. This is a crucial match for both teams as it will without question give the victors a psychological edge heading into the Rugby World Cup where they’ll meet again in the Pool stages.
This truly will be an epic battle between St George and the Dragon and not a match to be missed, so why not travel in style to Cardiff with VU Ltd. This trip has become one of the most popular excursions of the tournament; if you think it’s not possible to combine glamour, tradition, first class rugby hospitality, fun, banter and a smashing game of bruising rugby, then join Victor Ubogu, Lee Mears and other rugby legends on the Orient Express to find out how it’s done!
For more information click HERE