Chin up northern hemisphere. It’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, its the last full round of summer internationals this weekend (Scotland face a daunting trip to South Africa next week) and, yes, the results so far have been underwhelming for the majority of Six Nations sides (as foreseen in a post a couple of weeks ago). But there are reasons to be cheerful:
Step forward the aforementioned Scotland and their Celtic cousins Ireland. Both have an unbeaten record on tour so far. Ireland (whose summer exploits are now over) can look back on June as a successful month thanks to their back-to-back victories over Argentina. The Scots meanwhile have conquered North America thanks to wins over USA and Canada (just about).
There have also been some positives in defeat: no more so than England who will learn a lot from their narrow and gutsy losses to the world champion All Blacks. Even France, who were humiliated in round one, put on a much better showing against their Wallaby hosts last weekend. They kept to within a score…though failed to score themselves. And then there’s Wales…
Actually the least said about the Welsh display against the Springboks the better. They were flat, off the pace and duly punished by a fizzing South Africa side and an inspired Willie Le Roux. During those rare times when Warren Gatland’s men had the ball, they looked dangerous (especially when young Gareth Davies came onto the field at scrum half) but they couldn’t take their chances, left four scoring opportunities on the field and let their opponents in for five of their own. Three words on their match report: must do better. Still, could be worse: you could be playing for Italy.
But let’s overlook this last paragraph for now. Surely, given what’s written above, there’s reason for optimism this weekend isn’t there?
June 20, 20:10 – Argentina v Scotland – Argentina by 7
June 21, 06:00 – Australia v France – Australia by 10
June 21, 06:00 – Japan v Italy – Japan by 5
June 21, 08:35 – New Zealand v England – New Zealand by 3
June 21, 14:00 – South Africa v Wales – South Africa by 10
Sadly not we fear. Argentina were well beaten by the Irish but they did improve in the second test. They will be well prepared for Vern Cotter and his Scotland charges who, ultimately, were very lucky to get away with a win against Canada. They were one reversed penalty and a dodgy sending-off away from losing it. We predict the Pumas will gain their first win of the season tonight.
Dear oh dear, how appallingly awful was that match between Australia and France last week? Let’s hope for something a little different this time around. If you had to back one team to improve from that debacle who would it be? We think so too. Australia by 10.
Italian fans will be a little more optimistic this week as they move away from the giants of the south pacific. But they should be wary of the Japanese. They beat Wales last summer (all be it a second-string side) and will be looking for a scalp. But should we even call it a scalp when Japan sit two places and four ranking-points above the (so-far) lacklustre Azzuri? Japan to win.
In a fair sporting world England would win at least one of their three tests against New Zealand. A 2-1 series result would be a fair reflection given the English effort thus far. But sport isn’t fair and the All Blacks don’t do sentimentality. They are on a run of wins and they’ll look to extend it, which we think they duly will. England will have to settle for that midweek win against the Crusaders.
Finally, Wales. Only the most one-eyed dragon supporter would be confident of reverse of last week’s result. Red Rugby is that very type of supporter…but even we think South Africa just look too good. If the Welsh can address their annoying yet continual habit of easily giving possession away, they will make a game of it. If not, expect another rout. We’re saying South Africa by a score and a bit.
So there we are…a southern hemisphere clean-sweep. Well done Red Rugby, another uplifting post.