‘The awful day my lifelong dream of playing rugby for Wales died’

‘You can’t play rugby anymore.’ That was the first thing Matthew Childs heard after waking up in hospital from an injury that left him unconcious. This is his story of broken bones and smashed ambitions – and a helicopter rescue on TV

Matthew Childs

Every Sunday morning I was welcomed by the soft rings of my alarm. Most people hate the sound of their alarm, but for me it meant so much more. Yes, I should be in bed after a long week of school, but for me Sunday was the most important day of the week. I’d wake up with butterflies in my stomach, nervous about how well I was going to play, but most importantly because I did not want to get knocked out again. Because getting knocked out would mean my dream of playing rugby for the rest of my life would come hurtling to an abrupt and premature end.

Today would be one of the biggest games of the season, My team was playing our rivals, Driffield, so I had to prepare myself for a physical battle, but nothing could fully prepare me for what was going to happen.

Today would also be the last time I ever walked out onto a rugby pitch as a player.

Rugby was everything to me. Having the ball in my hands felt like I was holding a trophy. Being born in Wales meant, without a doubt, rugby is in my blood. I had played rugby since I was nine and remember watching rugby with my parents and seeing the passion they had and instantly knew that I wanted to be the next big rugby star, so my parents could cheer me on. I was only small when I started playing, but as I got older and continued to play, I got stronger and better. I played for a local team called Pocklington. The blue and white kits were snazzy and as soon as I started playing, I knew that this is what I wanted to do for as long as I could.

Eventually I had trials for Yorkshire. At this point it seemed that everything was coming into place. Then injury struck. I broke my shoulder blade and spent the next few weeks attempting to sleep upright while my bone excruciatingly repaired itself.

Then my life repeated. I had another trial for Yorkshire. All these thoughts were racing through my head, ‘How will it feel to score?’ ‘Am I going to play for the county?’ ‘Are my parents watching?’ Then, SMASH. Two players tackled me and tipped me onto my shoulder. The weight of three people came crashing down, snapping my collar bone along with all my dreams.

I returned to the pitch again, but this is where the injuries took a turn. Up until my injuries this had been the best season of rugby for me. We just kept winning,  I played every game really well, but most importantly this was the year I went to Welsh Exiles. Welsh Exiles are a development team for those that may not live in Wales, but wish to play for them. I had this hope of going to a university in Wales so I could play rugby and eventually get to play professionally. I kept going to the Welsh Exiles training days and although I was not yet playing for them, I looked forward to the day I could get my first uncapped international match.

I said that this was my favourite season, but it was also the one that I hated the most. My first knockout came hurtling towards me like a boulder down a cliff. Waking up laying on a pitch with coats over me, coaches panicking and my mum and dad worried to death was a scary experience. I had to take six weeks out for a concussion. I was upset. Not the upset where you are crying, but upset where you feel like you have let yourself down. The ‘why has this happened to me?’ mentality.

I bought myself a scrum cap to protect my clearly fragile head and returned six weeks later to one of the only places that felt like home. Yet again though, as soon as I returned, I got knocked out. I was in hospital this time and remember being laid down on a bed for so long that when I got up, I passed out. I hate hospitals. The constant beeping, the boredom, the lights that make your eyes hurt, the length of time you have to wait just to hear anything about when you can go home. The doctors told me that I had to be careful. My first knockout was quick and I wasn’t unconscious for a long time, but for the second one I was unconscious for longer. Again, I had to wait six weeks before I could return, and that day could not have come any sooner.

Illustration by Liv Phillips

So, the alarm clock rang that Sunday morning at eight. I was nervous, but I was all good to play this close rival match against Driffield. During my six weeks of recovery all I could think about was being back on the pitch and loving every minute of it. If I only I’d known what was about to happen.

The game was going swimmingly. I was playing really well, and we were winning. The second half came, and it was our kick-off. We kicked the ball high and short as always. I was running towards the flying ball, planning when to jump and contest, but the ball landed sooner than I thought. I charged to make a strong dominant tackle, but as I went in my head connected with an opponent’s shoulder.

Instantly I felt everything coming to an end. My vision started to fade, and then … nothing. All I saw was darkness until I awoke several hours later in hospital with tubes stuck in my arms and a headache that felt like Zeus had just stuck me with a bolt of lightning.

The doctors and my parents looked at me in shock trying to understand why I was unconscious for so long. It turns out I was taken to hospital in a helicopter – which is pretty cool. I have never been in a helicopter so it was a new experience, even if I can’t remember it. The helicopter journey was not any normal ride either because I was filmed for the Helicopter ER TV show.

When the doctor came in to check on me, I had this terrible sense I knew what he was going to say. He said it: I could no longer play rugby, and, in this moment, I experienced my first heartbreak. All my dreams were over. I used to spend every day waiting for the next time I could be on the pitch and now nothing, no dreams, no future in rugby, just nothing.

However, there is a silver lining to my departure. My final moments of rugby were documented on Helicopter ER. I might not be a rugby star, but at least I got on TV.

England clinch victory through a tense sudden death battle against France

With the group stages finished, Matthew Childs summarises the spectacular finals of the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, which saw a sudden death showdown to decide the winner.

Final – London – England vs France

Score: 22 – 19

The final of the Autumn Nations Cup was expected to be a dominant match by England, but France were not going down without a fight and proved they wanted to win just as much as England did.

French rugby regulations meant that their first string players were unable to get international leave from their clubs, forcing them to field what seemed to be a third if not fourth string team of inexperienced players. This considered, the squad showed that they were just as capable as the first team in giving England a challenge for the title.

France had a very defensive structure to the game which was executed almost perfectly. Their defensive coach Sean Edwards (ex Wales defensive coach) has done an excellent job at making France a defensive force with huge collisions and the ability to disable any attack that comes barrelling towards them.

Handling errors from France put England in a position to show the strength of their scrum. England’s pack dominated the scrum at the start of the match and allowed them to win vital penalties due to a lack of discipline in the French front row. These were both kicked by Owen Farrell but only one of them was successful.

France soon showed that their ‘inexperienced’ side was not to be underestimated. A superb running line put fly-half Matthieu Jalibert breaking through England’s defence. Jalibert then made a great offload allowing Brice Dulin to score in his first game for France since 2013. At this point France looked dangerous and were ensuring that England were unable to progress up the pitch to create any chances.

The inexperiance of the French squad caused them to concede another penalty, this time kicked by Elliot Daly. France lost a lot of the ball they had due to discipline errors, poor handling or expert jackeling from Maro Itoje and Tom Curry. These two players have worked hard all tournament to cause upset to all the teams that they faced. They were able again to steal valuable ball and allow England to dominate the breakdown.

England’s game plan has been clear since the start of the tournament. They like to kick the ball and make other teams come to them or wait until they make mistakes, and nothing changed in the final. This is how the game of rugby has changed significantly. Teams are more willing to have a game of kicking tennis as teams are playing to win.

England showed the strength of their set piece to place themselves five metres outside the French try line. This is where the quality of the French defence was shown as France were able to hold off collision after collision for 12 phases before eventually England made a mistake. That run of play summed up the strength of the French squad. Any team can defend well, but it takes sheer passion and determination to stop a formidable team from scoring over a long period of time like France did then.

England ended the first half trailing France by a converted try (seven points), an unusual position for them. Only three times in the last 24 matches, including the World Cup Final, have they been losing at half time – they lost all three.

The hosts started the second half with no more passion than they had shown in the first. Some of England’s most reliable players, including last week’s man of the match Sam Underhill, played poorly, leading to them being substituted early on in the second half. This seemed to work in England’s favour as a continuation of poor discipline from France and good pressure from England led to the visitors conceding another penalty, which was kicked by Farrell.

Again the second half saw a lot of kicking tennis between the teams before France eventually made a mistake to allow England another penalty. This time, however, Farrell missed his kick. With only four minutes left, France replied quickly with a penalty kick from Louis Carbonel to ensure that England had to score a converted try to get back into the game.

It seemed like England were out of the match, but a well worked driving maul allowed Luke Cowen-Dickie to drive over the line and score a try. Farrell converted to progress the game into extra time.

France had conceded over double the amount of penalties during the match compared to England. If Farrell had been more accurate with his kicking and had capitalised on the amount of penalties that France conceded, then England could have comfortably won the match without having to go into extra time.

With the game in sudden death, the first team to score any points would be crowned champions. With both teams already playing 80 minutes, exhaustion was high, so the game reverted to a game of kicking tennis to see which team made a mistake first. French discipline errors continued into extra time and allowed England the opportunity to win the game from a penalty kick from Farrell. He had been hit and miss until then with his kicks and that form continued when he hit the post and missed the chance to win the match.

The game was not yet over.

The first half of extra time went back and forth with no side able to score any points. Farrell eventually got another kicking opportunity in the dying minutes of extra time and this time he made sure of it, making England the first team to win the Autumn Nations Cup.

3rd place final – Dublin – Ireland vs Scotland

Score: 31 – 16

With Johnny Sexton back in the line up, Ireland made sure that the flaws they showed last week against Georgia had been ironed out to ensure they secured third place in the tournament.

Scotland had conceded the most penalties per match in the tournament and nothing changed during this match. In the opening stages, Scotland managed to play their own game. Ireland like to have a high pressure defence, but Scotland seemed to have it under control. Ireland conceded a a few lacklustre penalties at the start of the match, which were capitalised on by debutante Jaco van der Walt, who scored three penalty kicks in the first half.

The Irish set piece, notably the scrum, was weak last week against Georgia and this continued. In this first half Ireland played poorly, which allowed Scotland to score several penalties. On the flip side, Scotland were not much better, also conceding too many penalties to put them on the back foot. This eventually led to inside centre Duncan Taylor getting yellow carded and Sexton closed the gap between the two sides with a penalty kick.

This seemed to be the turning point for Ireland to battle a spirited Scottish side. A beautiful chipped kick from Sexton floated the ball into the Scottish try zone and was eventually grounded by Keith Earles after the Scottish players were unable to clean up the loose ball. Ireland at this point showed that a very strong scrum and pressure in defence had allowed them to take control of the game. This then eventually led to Ireland’s second try by Cian Healy in the opening minutes of the second half.

With the momentum of the game in the hands of the Irish, they were again rewarded by Earles getting his second try, which made him the second highest try scorer for Ireland after Brian O’Driscoll.

Although Scotland did not have much of the ball in the second half, with what they did have, they showed shape, threat and determination to attack the Irish defence and gain territory. Ultimately Ireland’s defence was very strong, but Duhan van der Merwe, the star winger for Scotland, was still able to weave his way through the Irish line and get a well deserved try, but it was too little too late for Scotland.

The visitors conceded too many penalties not only during this game, but through the whole tournament. This is an area which needs fixing before next year’s Six Nations to give them a fighting chance at challenging for the title. Ireland, however, made up for an unworthy performance last week to ensure that they finished in third place. Ireland always looked dangerous in attack, but what they were lacking is star players. Yes, they have star players in their squad, but after these players retire, there are no young stars coming into the game to fill their spots.

5th place final – LLanelli – Wales vs Italy

Score: 38 – 18

Wales are playing with a squad made up of new players with experienced ones. It is clear to see that Wayne Pivac wants to bleed in players in the hopes of building a very strong team in the future. This lineup worked well against Italy, but Wales seemed to be unfocused and this led to a lot of disciplinary errors. This lost them valuable territory and allowed Italy to put up a fight and score unnecessary points.

One key improvement in this match for Wales was their ability to hold onto possession and create some great passages of play from fast ball from the breakdowns. Wales scored first in the match, a good running line from Justin Tipuric breaking him through the Italian defence and an easy 2-on-1 pass put scrum half Kieran Hardy through for his first international try.

Wales continued their strong running and managed to work their way into the Italian 22. After a few phases of pick and goes, hooker Sam Parry was finally able to tumble his way over the try line to score Wales’ second try of the match and also his first international try.

Wales in the first part of the match were able to keep Italy out of the game due to their pressure in defence and having more possession, meaning that Italy were unable to make any progress into the match. Poor Welsh discipline soon came back to haunt them as they conceded two more penalties. One of them was kicked by the young Italian fly half Paolo Garbisi and the other led to a lineout deep in the Welsh half. The lineout was collected well by Italy and a strong drive into a more central position on the pitch allowed Marco Zanon to collect a grubber kick and run his way over the try line to score Italy’s first try of the match.

Welsh winger Josh Adams got a yellow card in the closing stages of the first half, which put Italy in a great position to score some more points. Italy started the second half as they left off and with Wales still down to 14 men, Johan Meyer was able to score a try for Italy putting them in the lead for the first time in the match.

Wales soon came back into the game and made sure that they finished the tournament on a positive. Gareth Davis and George North both scored tries to make sure that they won the match. At this point Wales showed they had ironed out their errors and became confident as a squad again. Callum Sheedy was flawless with his kicking all match and was also a huge asset in the Welsh attack. He delivered a perfectly timed pass to put Tipuric through for the final try of the match. The back row partnership between Tipuric and Faletau was outstanding throughout. Although Tipuruc got a try, Faletau made a lot of huge runs and defended extremely well, which for his efforts, rewarded him with Man of the Match.

7th Place final – Edinburgh – Georgia vs Fiji

Score: 24 – 38

With Fiji finally able to play their first match in the tournament with enough players free from Covid, they knew that they had to make it worthwhile. Within the first three minutes Fiji showed their talent with a try from Nemani Nadolo. Nadolo came back from retirement for the Autumn Nations Cup and it is clear to see why.

Fiji are renowned for being a strong team and this put the Georgian strength to the test. Georgia were not expecting such a strong start from Fiji and this put them under heavy pressure, which led to a lot of handling errors. This gave Fiji strong positioning inside the Georgian half and a powerful scrum led to the second try by Johnny Dyer in the sixth minute. At this point it seemed as if Fiji were going to completely dominate the whole game.

The one thing that stood out in the Fiji squad was their jackeling at every breakdown. This won them a lot of turnovers or penalties, but ultimately prevented Georgia from making any forward momentum. Georgia simply did not know how to break down the Fijian defensive and in turn this meant that Fiji were able to steal the ball and put Josua Tuisova through to score Fiji’s third try. The flying Fijians were off to a flying start.

Georgia soon made their way back into the game and managed to score a try before halftime. Although they went into halftime behind, they regathered and came out fighting after the break. Georgia made significant improvements to prevent Fiji from getting an even bigger lead and learnt how to break through the strong Fijian defence and work their way into the Fijian 22. Georgia have got a very strong scrum and this is what they used to secure good ball and move forwards up the pitch.

Fiji again continued their exceptional breakdown skills in the second half. This is where the game came to life. Fiji used their size and power to give Nadolo a hat-trick of tries and earn him Man of the Match. Georgia however, did not go down without a fight. Two tries scored by flanker Beka Saghinadze showed the heart of the Georgian players to come back from 38-10 to 38-24.

Although Georgia lost, they have made significant improvements since their first match of the tournament. At the start of the tournament they did not know how to attack the opposition, but now they have great running lines to break through the defence and they act well under pressure to ensure that they score points to challenge some of the best tier one nations. Before this tournament, Georgia barely played any matches against tier one nations. This tournament showed that playing better teams allowed them to constantly improve as a squad which makes for good competition.

Fiji played an amazing game and it is a shame that we have been unable to see them play any other games during this tournament. Based on this performance, they may have caused a lot of problems for some of the other teams in the tournament and potentially finished a lot higher in the table.

Rugby: Autumn Nations Cup Rd 3 – top two book Final places

With the group stages finished and the table standings secured, Matthew Childs summarises the enthralling matches of the weekend.

Here are the fixtures for the finals fixtures of the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup

Game 1 – Llanelli – Wales vs England

Score: 13 – 24

England travelled to Wales to face a weak, unstructured, squad in the hopes of confirming their place in the first Autumn Nations Cup final. Wales versus England has always been a rivalry that both teams desperately want to win. Regardless of their current form, Wales knew how important this match was and how much passion they needed to bring to give England a challenge.

Wales may not have won, but the match did show improvements from the Welsh squad, but also areas to focus development on. They attacked the English defence with strong carries, notably those from Johnny Williams, who scored the only Welsh try of the match.

Discipline errors were still prevalent for Wales, especially in the second half, which often lost them valuable territory. Part of the reason for this was due to a continuation of a strong defence from England, which meant that Wales struggled to convert possession into points. Wales also showed a very strong physical defence providing some huge dominant tackles against England and disrupted them from having complete control over the match, in the way we have seen from them in the tournament so far.

England’s physicality, discipline and team structure were a lot better than Wales’ which ultimately won them the match. The English squad has a very strong chemistry and they all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Eddie Jones made a good call in the squad selection to have two impressive creators in the middle of the pitch. Fly-half George Ford and captain and inside centre Owen Farrell allowed for a more attacking line up to create chances to break through the strong red line and gain territory.

Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry put huge performances in to ensure that England made it into the final this weekend. Underhill played with determination and dominance to halt Welsh attacks and create turnovers for England, which won him Man of the Match. Billy Vunipola was also exceptional in not only defence, but attacking as well. With 17 carries (the highest in the match) making 83 metres (also the highest in the match) he earned the most territory for England and was equally worthy of Man of the Match.

England have now safely secured their strong lead at the top of group A, moving them to the final next weekend. Wales on the other hand, finished the group stages in third place. Next, they face Italy to play for 5th place in the tournament.

Game 2 – Paris – France vs Italy

Score: 36 – 5

An enthralling first half saw the beginning of a close match between Italy and France. This all changed in the second half when Italy lost their defensive structure to hold back a blistering attack from the French team. France came away from the match with a bonus point victory to see them into the final this weekend against England.

France fielded an inexperienced squad consisting of 11 uncapped players. It may have taken them the first half to settle into the game, resulting in Italy being able to score their first and only try of the match. Once France eventually did settle into the game there was no stopping them. The doubts about them being an inexperienced squad were soon lost when they were able to score three tries in eight minutes and glide past Italy with ease while on their way to the final this weekend.

With French rugby icon Christophe Dominici passing away last week at the age of 48, French passion was running high. The new generation of French players made light work of the Italian squad. Sharp passing, accurate kicks and set piece domination enabled France to capitalise on a poor Italian squad.

Italy did show some talent in their only try scored by Carlo Canna which put them in the lead for a small portion of the first half. After this point the team seemed to lose its structure and creativity. Handling errors and a lack of discipline resulted in valuable territory and points being conceded. Discipline errors eventually led to Italian winger Jacopo Trolla getting a yellow card on his debut. This allowed debutante Gabin Villiere to scythe his way through the Italian on the wing to get an impressive solo try.

This match also marked a historical landmark. Nigel Owens refereed his 100th test match, making him the first ever referee to achieve this. Owens is drawing to the end of his career so let’s hope we can see some more referees make such a positive impact on the game like we have seen from him for so many years.

Game 3 – Dublin – Ireland vs Georgia

Score: 23 -10

In a surprisingly close match in Dublin, Georgia showed that they do have the ability against a tier one nation. An unthreatening Irish squad struggled to get a victory over Georgia. Ireland looked more and more disjointed as the match went on. A promising first half saw Ireland with a 17 point lead at the break, but a phenomenal solo try from Georgia’s Giorgi Kveseladze was a reward for the visitors’ hard work and determination to not give up.

Failing to score in a match before this one, Georgia certainly made up for it against Ireland. Ireland’s fly-half Billy Burns, who unfortunately got injured in the second half, was by far the best player for Ireland until his departure. Scoring 15 points in the first half he was determined to ensure that they made their way into the third place playoff.

Iain Henderson was rewarded man of the match for Ireland due to his defensive efforts, however, Georgia’s Kveseladze was equally deserving of the award for not only his try of the tournament so far, but also an excellent defensive tackle on Irish brute CJ Stander to prevent him from scoring a try after the clock had turned red.

Ireland had very few positives, apart from the win, to take into this weekend’s third place playoff against Scotland. They conceded far too many penalties and had very little control over the match. With Burns adding to the list of injured fly-halves, it adds worry about who will play fly-half this weekend. With no Sexton or Burns, the Irish attack may lack the creativity it needs to beat Scotland.

Georgia did not only show talent in attacking runs, but defensively as well. They successfully disrupted the Irish set piece by putting a lot of pressure on Ireland in the scums especially and in the process they won a few penalties with only one being converted by Abzhandadze.

Unlike Ireland, Georgia have a lot of positives to take away from this remarkable performance in the hope of playing Fiji this week (providing that Fiji have no coronavirus cases).

Game 4 – Edingburgh – Scotland vs Fiji

Score: 28 – 0

Just like all the other matches, Fiji is still facing punishment for allowing Coronavirus into the camp, which forced the cancellation of this game. It’s a shame that we have been unable to see them play, but hopefully they will be able to play this week in the last place playoff against Georgia.

Scotland face a fragile and unconfident Irish squad in the hope of claiming third place in the tournament.

Final Round fixtures:

1st place final: London – England vs France

3rd place final: Dublin – Ireland vs Scotland

5th place final: Llanelli – Wales vs Itlay

7th place final: Edingburgh – Georgia vs Fiji

Rugby: Autumn Nations Cup – Round 2 summary

With the second round finished, Matthew Childs takes a look at the performances of the international teams.

Here is a look at the line ups for each team in round two against their respective teams

Game 1 – London – England vs Ireland

Score: 18 – 7

The biggest match of the weekend took place at Twickenham between the 2020 Six Nations champions and a strong Ireland squad. In a game that was always going to be a challenge for each team, England showed that defence is the best offence.

England made a total of 208 tackles compared to a mere 76 from Ireland. The hosts knew that they didn’t need the ball for most of the match but when they did get it they made sure to come out with some points on the board.

Ireland simply couldn’t break down England’s high pressure defence. Even though Ireland had more possession and more metres carried it was clear to see that England dominated the game defensively and that Ireland lacked the strategy to trouble the perfect England squad.

Johnny May scored two tries for England with one being an immense solo try. Maro Itoje also performed remarkably earning him Man of the Match for his defensive work and ability to upset the Ireland attack.

Ireland will be annoyed by this loss and they definitely suffered by not having Johnny Sexton or Rob Henshaw on the field due to injuries. However, it is hard to believe that they would have made a significant difference to this scoreline if they had been on the pitch.

England now sit comfortably at the top of Group A with nine points. Although they lost, Ireland have kept their second place position in the table above Wales and Georgia.

England face an improved Welsh squad this Saturday, away. In their current form it is hard to believe that any team can beat them, while Ireland will be happy to have an easier game against Georgia on Sunday.

Game 2 – Llanelli – Wales vs Georgia

Score: 18 – 0

This was a must win match for Wales to bring back some hope to the future of the Welsh squad. Knowing this, Wayne Pivac decided to field a team that was younger and less experienced, to show some variety and new possibilities for the Welsh squad. Wales gave four debuts against Georgia, showing that Pivac wanted to test a new squad.

Although it was a win, this match was a chance for Wales to make up for a loss in the first round by getting a bonus point victory. Unfortunately, they didn’t achieve that and Georgia deserve some of the credit for consistent defence that caused problems for the Welsh attack.

A stand-out performance from 19-year-old Louis Rees Zammit earned him his first ever international try. His natural talent has been shown in his prolific try scoring success with Premiership team Gloucester. Now with an international try to his name as well, it is clear to see that he will be in the Welsh squad for years to come.

The performances from the Welsh players this week were an improvement from what we have seen so far, but there were still a lot of mistakes being made. That could not be said, however, for back row Aaron Wainwright. His performance earned him Man of the Match due to a very consistent performance at ensuring every breakdown was secured and ready for the scrum half and earning some turnovers along the way.

Wales will be gutted to lose Justin Tipuric to a nasty head injury. Luckily they have a lot of back row options that are just as capable and can fill his spot this weekend when they play against the in-form England. For Georgia, it’s a journey to Dublin to face Ireland.

Game 3 – Edinburgh – Scotland vs France

Score: 15 – 22

Scotland on a winning streak of five games got their hopes shattered by France in a close match from start to finish at Murrayfield. Scotland set out to beat the in-form and talented French squad in what turned out to be the closest match of the weekend, not only through the scoreline but physically as well. It was a match-up where, until the latter parts of the second half, it could have gone either way.

Wayne Barnes may have been a strict referee in this match but he was a fair one. Both teams conceded a lot of penalties that were capitalised on by the opposing kickers. Scotland and France both showed strengths in attack but discipline mistakes cost them vital territory and point-earning penalties. With Scotland scoring no tries, all of their points came from penalty kicks.

Both teams showed their kicking ability from penalties, for territorial gain or in the case of France, the dying art of the drop goal. Scotland’s fly half Duncan Weir showed his threat as a kicking force and a viable replacement for Finn Russell by scoring all 15 points for Scotland from penalties. France also proved their kicking strength with full back Thomas Ramos scoring 14 points ( four penalty kicks and one conversion) alongside a spectacular drop goal from Matthieu Jalibert in the first half.

Scotland were still rewarded for their efforts with a bonus point due to finishing within seven points of France.

Scotland were set to face Fiji at Murrayfield on Saturday, however several positive coronavirus tests in the visiting squad has forced the game to be cancelled. France on the other hand host Italy.

Game 4 – Florence – Italy vs Fiji

Score: 28 – 0

Again, just like the previous week, Fiji have suffered another automatic bonus point defeat to Italy due to having too many positive cases of coronavirus in their team.

Italy will be happy as it is the first game they have technically won since beating Canada in the World Cup in 2019. Italy face France away on Saturday and will be hoping the form they showed against Scotland two weeks ago hasn’t gone away so they can challenge a strong France team.

As it stands, England are at the top of group A with nine points. Wales and Ireland are in joint second place with four points each but Ireland are ahead based on points difference. Georgia sit at the bottom, yet to score any tournament points.

Group B sees France at the top of the table with nine points as well. Scotland sit in second with six points after getting a bonus point this week which put them just ahead of Italy on five points after been given the win against bottom of the table Fiji. It’s a shame that Fiji have not taken precautions seriously enough as they might have caused upsets to some of the northern hemisphere teams but for now they sit at the bottom on zero points.

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.