As the trees turn from a petit pois hue to soft caramel and a deep crimson, and the daylight mimics a Scandinavian crime drama, rugby union gets an autumnal renaissance. This will surely satisfy every rugby fan in the land before Christmas completely dominates everyone’s consciousness. Below is a review of Scotland’s and England’s Autumn International campaigns.
Samoa 11th November, 14:30pm, BT Murrayfield Stadium, BBC One, Ref: Nic Berry
New Zealand 18th November, 17:15pm, BT Murrayfield Stadium, BBC Two, Ref: Matthew Carely
Australia 25th November, 14:30pm, BT Murrayfield Stadium, BBC One, Ref: Pascal Gauzere
General thoughts on Scotland’s campaign-
It seems to be ritual to have optimism for the Scottish with these Autumn Internationals. With young recruits and long records for not winning against the South Hemisphere test sides, we generally tend to think that this year could be the year. Last year, when Scotland faced Australia, it was again heartache when loosing by a single point. However, they redeemed themselves this summer through a shock victory in Melbourne. However, Australia are a different side six months on having beaten the All Blacks in the third Bledisloe test and recently winning comfortably against Japan. The All Blacks also arrive in Edinburgh and boy do the Socts have a job on their hands. New Zealand could be the first ever, in the professional era, to score 2000 tries in test match rugby when they pose a threat to France this weekend.
Players representing Scotland have been performing well in the new Pro 14 competition and there has been a rejuvenation, especially with Edinburgh Rugby under former Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill. Scotland, I believe, are capable of winning against Samoa and it is possible for them to finally become victorious against Australia on British soil. They’ll have to use the home support, just like with the victory against Ireland back in February, and generate a lot of quick ball, a big test for Ally Price with Greig Laidlaw out of the picture.
Key Scottish players to look out for: Stuart Hogg-
After his nearly career-ending eye injury whilst on tour with the British & Irish Lions, Hogg will be desperate to get back to wearing the thistle with pride. He is the catalyst for Scotland’s rugby success’ and if he has a good game, Scotland has a good game.
Predictions for the first game against Samoa-
Now the world has been shocked this week by the news of Samoa Rugby’s bankruptcy. Manu Tualagi has even said that without Samoa in world rugby, there is no rugby at all. Therefore, these brave south sea islanders will be fired up to perform well against the Scots. However, Greggor Townsend has picked a strong side. One might almost say close to Townsend’s starting XV, although Darryl Marfo of Edinburgh has been given his first start. With all of this, I consider the Scots will win and succeed against Samoa by 15 points.
Predictions for top try scorer-
Now I know that this is unfair on the forwards, I will be honest, but it is the player who will be most successful getting over the whitewash. I think that for Scotland, Tommy Seymour will bag the most tries. After all, it was Seymour’s talent that landed him a place as only the second Scot included in the original British and Irish Lions squad.
Argentina 11th November, 15:00pm, Twickenham, Sky Sports Action, Ref: Marius van der Westhuizen
Australia 18th November, 15:00pm, Twickenham, Sky Sports Action, Ref: Ben O’Keefe
Samoa 25th November, 15:00pm, Twickenham, Sky Sports Action, Ref: Andrew Brace
General thoughts on England’s campaign –
England will enter these matches with everyone expecting them to get another clean sweep under Eddie Jones. With the financial collapse of Samoan Rugby, the RFU are generously donating money to the crash-strapped Samoan team, a move that has prompted criticism towards World Rugby. Both Australia and Argentina will be seeking revenge against England as both sides have recent bad records against England with Australia loosing four times in 2016, Argentina once last year and twice in 2017. England have a lot of pressure on them as one of the biggest challengers to the All Blacks during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, despite England not having played against them since 2013. They are due to play the New Zealand team next year.
Key English players to look out for: Henry Slade-
With players coming in from the Argentina tour, mixing with the stalwarts that Jones has picked out in his tendency thus far, it’s hard to not get excited about the new crop. The player I will be keeping a close eye on is Henry Slade. Slade has been in the England camp for a while, but has now got the opportunity to prove, at Twickenham, what a great talent he is. However, it is also hard to ignore England’s young backrow, especially Bath Rugby’s Sam Underhill and Exeter Chief’s Sam Simmons.
Predictions for the first game against Argentina-
Los Pumas will come to Twickenham fired up, and not just by performing their national anthem. They have had a torrid season this year, loosing all of their matches in the Rugby Championship and the summer tests against England. They know that a win at Twickenham would guarantee them to be greeted as heroes upon returning home. England are on a high however, and I think with the new experimentation that they have adopted in some areas, they can portray an exciting brand of rugby. I predict England will win by 20 points.
Predictions for top try scorer-
Had Johnny May not sustained a hamstring injury, most people would have been very excited to see him with the England shirt on. Previously, he was my predicted player to score the most England tries. However, with May not around, it might be Elliot Daly who could cap off excellent passages of play with the most tries for England across these three matches.
Another article will follow with Morgan’s thoughts on Wales’ and Ireland’s Autumn International campaigns.