June Internationals and Pacific Nations Round 2 Review – Northern Hemisphere Closing the Gap?

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The June Internationals and Pacific Nations Cup were far more predictable than the FIFA World Cup, but there was plenty to get out of the second week of games.  England and France showed enough resilience in their narrow losses to the All Blacks and Wallabies to suggest that they will be a handful when the Rugby World Cup is played in the Northern Hemisphere next year.  The Springboks, Samoa and Fiji posted bigger than expected victories too.

The All Blacks victory over England was enthralling as the visitors started stronger against a rusty All Blacks team who took until the second half to finally start firing.  England looked far more enthusiastic for more of the match, with the exception of the first thirty minutes of the second half when the All Blacks clinched the game including when England’s Owen Farrell was in the sinbin.  Fullback Ben Smith, lock Brodie Retallick and centre pairing of Maá Nonu and Conrad Smith were the best All Blacks on display, but there were still too many mistakes from the men in black, with players like Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Cory Jane and Liam Messam not doing enough for me to be guaranteed starters in the third test.

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The All Blacks may have won the series already, but England look far more dangerous these days.  They have some genuinely dangerous ball runners and a fast and aggressive defensive line which will be something to watch in the Rugby World Cup in 2015 where they will be a major threat.  It is hard to know if the All Blacks are in decline or England are on the rise, but it has made for a great series.  Despite being a one point win by the All Blacks, the result was never in doubt from most of the second half onwards, but the way England started and finished stronger must be alarming for the All Blacks coaching staff.  It will be interesting to see what changes both teams make for the third test.

The Springboks looked the most impressive team with their big first half slaughtering of Wales, while the Wallabies won a tryless affair with the French 6-0.  It is difficult to know how much to read into the form of the Rugby Championship teams as some of the Northern Hemisphere teams sent to the Southern Hemisphere are probably at their strongest in years and so it is difficult to judge.  It is refreshing to get some meaningful test matches in June.

There were also away wins for Ireland and Scotland in Argentina and Canada.  These two teams have both won on consecutive weekends away from home hereby raising the question of has the gap between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere shrunk or is it simply a case of timing with the Northern Hemisphere teams touring at the end of the season, rather than at the beginning?

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Fiji is going to be tough to beat in the Pacific Nations Cup after thrashing Tonga.  Nemani Nadolo from the Crusaders showed his class with 20 points.  It is great when Pacific Nations Cup teams have their best players available as this doesn’t always happen!

The Crusaders host England midweek.

June Internationals and Pacific Nations Cup results

Samoa 15 – 0 Italy

New Zealand 28 – 27 England

Australia 6 – 0 France

South Africa 38 – 16 Wales

Canada 17 – 19 Scotland

Argentina 17 – 23 Ireland

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Pacific Nations Cup

Fiji 45 – 17 Tonga

USA –  Japan

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