November Internationals 2016 Review

We have had a feast of rugby and it’s been testament to how good the games have been that there has been relatively little Lions talk! Here’s my review of the Tier 1 teams and grades on how they did.

In my preview of the November Internationals I gave each team a par target of wins and so I’ll be including that and I’ll rank teams against that.

Argentina

54 v 20 Japan
20 v 24 Wales
16 v 19 Scotland
14 v 27 England

I said in my preview “We will get an indication if their policy of not selecting european based players is sustainable.” We found out that for this year at least it was too much to ask of the players. They have 1 of the highest travelling schedules of all the Super Rugby teams. To then only pick from that side plus a couple of other players in Super Rugby or domestically was a big ask on the players. They looked tired and do need a rest, hopefully they have learnt a lot this season about traveling and will be better for it next year.

Par – 3 wins
Actual – 1 win
Grade – C

Australia

32 v 8 Wales
23 v 22 Scotland
25 v 23 France
11 v 19 French Barbarians
24 v 27 Ireland
21 v 37 England

The Wallabies come into this aiming for a grand slam of the home nations. They came up short against an Ireland team on the rise and then also found England too tough. They have shown progress since the June internationals and have brought some new players through well this season so we shouldn’t be too down on them. However they did come up short of their target so that goes against them and they are still thin for cover in most departments.

A quick note about the par target, I assumed a win over the French Barbarians in that but it ended up being an Australian Barbarians side so they can be forgiven that loss.

Par – 5 wins
Actual – 3 wins
Grade – B

England

37 v 21 South Africa
58 v 15 Fiji
27 v 14 Argentina
37 v 21 Australia

England completed the calendar year winning all their games and are now on a run of 14 wins. A grand slam in the 6 Nations will take them to 19 and past the tier 1 record of New Zealand who’s 18 winning streak came to an end recently. That they did this with 5 or 6 starters from the June games out injured also goes to show the depth that is now being developed. A successful November window and year.

Par -4 wins
Actual – 4 wins
Grade – A

France

52 v 8 Samoa
23 v 25 Australia
19 v 24 New Zealand

In the preview I said “France are a shadow of their former selves”. 1 of the great things to come out of this set of games was the resurgence of the French game plan. Sure they only won 1 game but they push Australia all the way with an expansive attacking style of old. So an A grade might feel high for a team that only won 1 game but it was there performances that give is hope for the future.

Par – 1 win
Actual – 1 win
Grade – A

Ireland

40 v 29 New Zealand
52 v 21 Canada
9 v 21 New Zealand
27 v 24 Australia

Ireland famously beat New Zealand for the first time ever in Chicago. They then maintained a good level of performance against them a fortnight later and also beat Australia with key players injured. This was a great window for Ireland as not only did they get a famous win but also showed that they are developing some depth that let them down at the Rugby World Cup last year.

Par – 2 wins
Actual – 3 wins
Grade – A

Italy

10 v 68 New Zealand
20 v 18 South Africa
17 v 19 Tonga

How do you grade Italy? They played very poorly against New Zealand. Then fronted up to get a memorable victory over South Africa only to regress again and be the only Tier 1 team to lose to a Tire 2 team. This was a really up and down set of games with more downs than ups and so I’m going to be harsh on them and worried for them come the 6 Nations.

Par – 1 win
Actual – 1 win
Grade – C

New Zealand

29 v 40 Ireland
68 v 10 Italy
21 v 9 Ireland
24 v 19 France

It’s hard for the All Blacks as they are expected to win every game. They come unstuck against an Ireland team that played their game plan to perfection. After that they bounced back well to win their remaining games, including the return fixture against Ireland. So it was an average window for them but nothing to get worried about as they showed the character to cope with the odd loss.

Par – 4 wins
Actual – 3 wins
Grade – B

Scotland

22 v 23 Australia
19 v 16 Argentina
43 v 16 Georgia

Scotland came so close to beating Australia but they do still lack a bit of composure against the top teams. The performance though was encouraging and so were the following 2 games. If we hadn’t seen Scotland do well at this time of year only to regress in the 6 Nations, we would be doing cartwheels. As it is there has to be an element of trepidation that this is just another false dawn, they will always struggle with depth and keeping their players fit will be key to how they go in the new year.

Par – 1 win
Actual – 2 wins
Grade – A

South Africa

31 v 31 Barbarians
21 v 37 England
18 v 20 Italy
13 v 27 Wales

The Springboks could not have gone any worse really, only drawing with a scratch side to open the window really set the tone. The squad doesn’t appear to be on the same page as to the game plan. The problem is that the new coach doesn’t look like he’s going to resign and can the SARU afford the cash to sack him? Some people are saying things can’t get any worse but until the administration is fixed at the SARU I think they can and that’s not good for international rugby.

Par – 3 wins
Actual – 0 wins
Grade – D

Wales

8 v 32 Australia
24 v 20 Argentina
33 v 30 Japan
27 v 13 South Africa

With 3 wins this looks like a good set of games for Wales but that hides a host of problems. Over the last year we have heard lots of talk from the Welsh coaches about evolving the game plan/style of play. In the 6 Nations we had a game where Roberts didn’t pass the ball once and apart from some early play in New Zealand we haven’t seen the word s turn into action. To only beat Japan by 3 points is a poor result for the Welsh. We should temper the reaction that they are still winning even if they are playing badly. However it doesn’t bode well for the 6 Nations so I’m grading them down.

Par – 3 wins
Actual – 3 wins
Grade – C

Tier 2 Nations

Tonga have to be the pick to the Tier 2 nations in this window as they were the only ones to collect a Tier 1 scalp in the shape of Italy. They also picked up victories over Spain and the USA to have a perfect set of games.

It was also good to see a revival in the Barbarians who picked up a draw and 2 wins. For a club that is struggling to find/earn its place in the professional world these were much needed results.

The 2 Tier 2 sides that most people are looking at to grown over the next couple of years are Japan and Georgia. Japan’s window started poorly with a big loss to Argentina but they learnt from that and came back to have some good performances. With a high turnover of players since the Rugby World Cup this was a very good sign. Georgia had a poor window first losing to Japan and finishing with a big loss to Scotland. They did manage a win over Samoa in the middle of that to finish the year undefeated against Pacific Island teams after playing them 4 times.

Romania were the other success story of November beating the USA, Canada and Uruguay. Both of the North American sides disappointed as they both lost all their games.

For a full list of results from the November Internationals check out this Wikipedia page.

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