The June Internationals have finished with some extremely close finishes in matches between the Springboks and Wales, Argentina and Scotland and Japan and Italy. Referee Steve Walsh denied Wales an historic first ever victory in South Africa with a penalty try two minutes before fulltime. Walsh’s tattoo says “he who controls himself, controls the game”.
The Wallabies and All Blacks recorded far more convincing wins against France and England. I particularly enjoy watching rugby played during the daytime in sunny conditions and hence why I enjoyed seeing the Wallabies vs France match. Compare that to the All Blacks vs England match played in the rain at night time, yet the All Blacks flourished in those conditions.
What can we take from these June Internationals?
The Northern Hemisphere teams have the ability to compete with their Southern Hemisphere rivals, but just don’t have the edge to be able to win the tight matches. South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all won tight matches in their series. The Northern Hemisphere teams also seem to be able to compete in one or two games, but not a series. In saying this, I think these teams in general played far better than I expected and were far more competitive, especially England.
The All Blacks showed throughout their series with England that they can be matched for periods of games, but showed a unique self belief which sees them win the close matches and have the ability to produce tries or points when they need them. They did show a vulnerability early in the season. They still beat England 3-0, but in some ways, England claimed a potential moral victory. The All Blacks have the experience, but will they be able to still peak in England 2015 for the Rugby World Cup? Teams like England, Australia and South Africa seem to have renewed optimism and are bringing through some exciting players capable of matching the mighty All Blacks.
There were also narrow wins for Japan and Scotland which are encouraging for them heading towards the 2015 season and the Rugby World Cup. It will make a big difference having the tournament in the Northern Hemisphere too. Japanese coach Eddie Jones has definitely brought an improvement to the Cherry Blossoms.
In the Pacific Nations Cup, Tusi Pisi kicked Manu Samoa to victory over Fiji. Samoa has been struggling in the competition up until now, but have some big names in their squad who are capable of matching it with the big boys of world rugby on their day.
Which team impressed you the most in the June Internationals and Pacific Nations Cup?
For me, Japan were impressive winning all of their games, while despite England losing all three of their games, they showed enough to suggest that they will be hard to beat in Rugby World Cup 2015. The Wallabies also look promising, while the Springboks and All Blacks showed they can win close matches.
Argentina 19 – 21 Scotland
Japan 26 – 23 Italy
Australia 39 – 13 France
New Zealand 36 – 13 England
South Africa 31 – 30 Wales
Pacific Nations Cup
Fiji 13 – 18 Samoa
USA – Canada