Rugby: Autumn Nations Cup – Round 1 summary

Matthew Childs summarises round 1 of the first ever Autumn Nations Cup

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The home nation captains. From left to right: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) Stuart Hogg (Scotland) Owen Farrell (England) and Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

With the first ever Autumn Nations Cup underway, it is a good test of the rugby teams after a long break because of Coronavirus. The cup consists of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Georgia and Fiji.

Considering these teams it is basically another Six Nations with the addition of the flying Fijians and the Lelos (Georgians) to provide some variety to what we see every year and as it suggests there is a trophy on the line for the champions.

Game 1 – Dublin- Ireland vs Wales

Score – 32-9

The weekend opened the tournament with a group A match between Wales and Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Wales enter this game on a losing streak of five hoping to turn things around and Ireland go into the match after losing to France which destroyed their chances of winning the 2020 Six Nations.

Wales played a poor game and have suffered their sixth loss in a row under new head coach Wayne Pivac, creating concerns about the future of the now tier 3 Welsh team and the remaining games in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Not all the blame can be put on Wayne Pivac, the players didn’t play as they are known to and a lack of discipline cost Wales far too many penalties. Ireland capitalised on these and scored a total of six penalties (18 points) equalling more than Wales’ pitiful 9 points.

A great performance from Ireland ensured the victory, but unfortunately not enough to secure them a bonus point victory. Playing against a weak Welsh squad allowed them to produce good ball for the backs to spread the Welsh defence and create opportunities for their strong runners to break through the game line.

An excellent performance from debut winger James Lowe saw him vigorously involved in the first half of the match making solid strong runs through the Welsh defence. He was rewarded for his efforts with a try in the closing minutes of the match.

Ireland suffered injuries to two of their most influential players. Captain Jonathan Sexton suffered a hamstring injury in the match and Robbie Henshaw also got a muscle injury. This is a big loss for Ireland and will weaken their side to face a very strong English team next week.

Game 2 – London- England vs Georgia

Score – 40-0

The second group A match of the tournament was almost certain to be an England whitewash. Knowing this, head coach Eddie Jones saw this match as a chance to test the England forwards against one of the most physical professional teams. This match was a good chance to ensure that England’s scrummaging is at the ability it needs to be to face Ireland next week.

With their ability shown in the opening phases of the match, it was simply time to rack up the points. To show the forwards ability throughout the match, England’s hooker Jamie George scored a hat-trick of try’s making him the first ever hooker to achieve this in a match. For his outstanding performance Jamie George was also rightly awarded man of the match. England end the match with a bonus point victory putting them at the top of Group A. England’s ability will be truly tested next week when they face Ireland at home.

The Georgian team may be physically strong but they lacked composure and ability to face the inform England squad. The Georgians believe they are able to replace Italy in the Six Nations. However, with this performance it is hard to understand why. Hopefully we will see more of their ability when they face a very weak Wales squad in round two.

Game 3 – Florence – Italy vs Scotland

Score – 17-28

Group B kicked off with Italy at home facing Scotland. Although the score line doesn’t show it Italy played their performance of the year so far. They dominated vast episodes of the match and the kicking game from flyhalf Paolo Garbisi allowed Italy to control territory and show that they deserve to remain as the sixth team in the Six Nations.

Italian prop Danilo Fiscetti played a magnificent game. Strong runs, solid scrummaging and sturdy jackeling allowed him to win Italy a fair few turnovers and penalties to lead halftime 14-7

Ultimately, though Scotland performed well and were switched on in the second half to ensure that they came out of the game with a bonus point victory. The tired Italian team were unable to withstand the Scottish side, but they shouldn’t be disheartened by the result as the way they played has been an improvement from what we have seen in this years Six Nations.

This match also saw the debut of another winger, Duhan Van Der Merwe for Scotland. The South African born player showed his ability, speed and strength to not only get a try, but also get man of the match as well.

Scotland will face a very strong French team next week at home. Their performance will have to be refined for the fierce French squad. On the other hand Italy will face Fiji next week, providing that Fiji is cleared of all coronavirus cases.

Game 4 – Paris – France vs Fiji

Score – 28-0

Unfortunately, this match was called off due to there being a coronavirus outbreak within the Fijian camp. Hopefully their cases will go soon so we can see them in action against the northern hemisphere teams for the first time since the 2019 World Cup.

Since Fiji broke coronavirus restrictions and have positive cases, they have now been penalised. This has meant they have lost the match against France. France walk away from this match with a bonus point victory putting them at the top of group B

France will face Scotland away next week. With an excellent performance by them in the Six Nations, will their form continue in the Autumn Nations Cup?

For the Fijians, an improving Italy squad will stand in their way next week, again providing that the coronavirus cases go, however, this match will most likely be cancelled as well.

As it stands England are at the top of group A with Ireland not far behind. Wales and Georgia at the bottom of the table hoping to improve in the next round and come away with some points.

In group B France are at the top of the table with Scotland on the same amount of points. Italy is third with Fiji sitting at the bottom of the group.

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