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The autumn international Tests in Europe produced a 10-3 record for the Home Nations (i.e.; England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland) against all competition, including six wins against the southern hemisphere fifteens. Although New Zealand won all three matches (but not overwhelmingly) against France, Scotland, and Wales, the other three Rugby Championship squads, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina, went 1-6 against the four, Home Nations teams.
Most recently, last week, Wales defeated South Africa 24-22 in Cardiff leaving the Springboks with only two tour wins against France (18-17) and Italy.
The Home Nations’ Test success portends the possibility of a highly competitive Six Nations Championship in 2018. For the record, England won this tournament the past two-years, achieving a 9-1 outcome, with only last year’s loss to Ireland away as the sole blemish on the Red Roses’ record. The Irish loss also marked England’s sole defeat since the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
The autumn Tests brought new confidence to the northern hemisphere Home Nations, all four of whom did not make the 2015 RWC quarterfinals, when the qualifiers were the southern hemisphere squads. The All Blacks beat Australia for the Cup crown, while South Africa triumphed over Argentina for third place.
The Home Nations started playing in 1883, continuing to 1910 when France joined the competition. France left in 1931 and rejoined in 1940. Italy became the sixth nation in 2000. The Italians have fared poorly, winning two contests in a few years, but suffering the Wooden Spoon (last place) on twelve occasions of the eighteen tournaments. The Azzurri have never beaten England.
The Six Nations kicks off February 3 and 4th. Can England make it a three-peat?
That tournament, and the 2018 Rugby Championship in the summer months, are the third-year of international competitions from the past 2015 RWC, and should be viewed as formative events looking ahead to 2019 RWC in Japan.