International Rugby Power Rankings After Opening Autumn Internationals

Danny CoyleFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

International Rugby Power Rankings After Opening Autumn Internationals

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    Now that we’ve seen everyone play, we can get a sense of where teams from either side of the equator are in terms of form right now.

    While the Welsh hard-luck story continues against the Southern Hemisphere elite, perhaps the side that gained most in defeat were France.

    They looked outstanding at times against New Zealand and matched their physicality and pace but fell victim to that extra sprinkle of world-class skill.

    Here’s where we stand.

10. Italy

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    How disappointing for the Italians. All the pregame talk was that this would be their best chance in 16 matches with the Wallabies to get one over on them.

    Instead, they were flayed.

    It’s all the more frustrating for Jacques Brunel’s men given they had raced to a 10-0 lead after just 13 minutes and looked perfectly placed to control the proceedings.

    What happened instead was a 19-point avalanche in 16 minutes to turn the tide and leave them trailing by more than a converted score at the break.

    It took until beyond the hour mark for the Azzurri to register another point, by which time Australia had stretched out to 33 points and were never going to be caught.

    Italy now look vulnerable against Fiji next weekend but will need to rebuild confidence before the visit of Argentina on Nov. 23.

9. Argentina

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    A game of two halves for Daniel Hourcade’s new charges.

    They were simply blown away in the first half at Twickenham but showed in the second half that, if a side allows them back into a contest, they will fight tooth and nail to stay there.

    Argentina’s forward pack will always produce solid scrum and lineout ball, but they must be more urgent at the breakdown to provide their backs with some space.

    They travel to face a bruised Welsh outfit next weekend which will be another contest they’ll hope to drag into the trenches.

     

     

8. Scotland

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    Scotland did what Wales couldn’t do in the summer and beat Japan comfortably.

    A spirited first half from the Asian champions saw them trail just 11-3 at the break, but Scott Johnson’s men cut loose in the second 40 minutes and had two tries to thank from debutant Tommy Seymour.

    The 6' Nashville-born Seymour scored one in each half, and his impressive display was allied to the other debutant, Tim Swinson’s Man of the Match showing.

    The lock was picked ahead of Lion, Richie Gray, as Johnson looks to add depth to the squad Vern Cotter will inherit at the end of the season.

     

     

     

7. Ireland

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    Some thought ex-teacher Joe Schmidt was set for a nightmarish first day of the new term against the hard-hitting Pacific Islanders.

    Samoa went into this game ranked just ahead of their hosts in the IRB league table, but a 40-9, one-sided affair made something of a mockery of that.

    Schmidt will have been pleased to see the discipline and power displayed by his pack that set the foundation for a comfortable win.

    But he also knows that there is another gear to find against Australia and New Zealand in the next two weeks. Two tries on debut from replacement Dave Kearney capped a solid night’s work for Ireland.

     

6. Wales

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    The hoodoo remains hanging over Wales.

    They enjoyed enough possession to hurt the South Africans, but they never seemed likely to get through a more physical Springbok team.

    Losing Jonathan Davies early and seeing him quickly followed by Adam Jones damaged their cause. Two further injuries in the first half didn’t help, but there remained a significant number of Lions on the field to carry the fight to South Africa—which they did.

    But the cutting edge was missing when it came to taking their chances. The statistics make grim reading for Warren Gatland.

    One win in 22 matches against the big three from the south doesn’t reflect how close Wales have come in some of those encounters, but the final step continues to elude them.

     

     

5. Australia

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    Harry Engels/Getty Images

    What to make of this Australian team?

    The omens suggested that they could come unstuck against Italy, yet they ran riot in Turin.

    Not only did their misfiring back line produce seven tries, their much-maligned front row of James Slipper, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander stood up to the test from the far higher-rated Italian unit.

    This drubbing sets Australia up nicely for a crack at all three Celtic nations on consecutive weekends.

    They face Ireland first and travel to Dublin knowing they have failed so far this year to complete back-to-back victories.

4. France

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    Les Bleus were up for the fight Saturday night.

    They smashed into the tackle like men possessed, and their attack seemed to have a stronger focal point in fly-half Remi Tales than it has for a long time.

    Wesley Fofana was a thorn in New Zealand’s side all night, and after this performance, we were once again left wondering how a side with this many quality players walked off with the Six Nations wooden spoon a few months ago.

    France need to keep turning up with this level of intensity, and they will be a major force to be reckoned with.

3. England

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    Two members of the Rugby Championship have been dealt with in two weeks, and Twickenham’s colours have not been lowered in six matches.

    That makes for handsome reading for England fans, but their win over Argentina Saturday was the ugly duckling of the weekend.

    A first half that saw them rack up 24 points should have had them champing at the bit to get back at the throats of the Pumas in the second 40 minutes, but they came out as though they’d been told to let their visitors have a turn.

    With the All Blacks arriving to extend their winning run and wipe out the memory of last year’s defeat at Twickenham, Stuart Lancaster’s men need to find a way to maintain a higher tempo when they have the ball. They must try and weld two halves of rugby together.

2. South Africa

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The only question left to ask South Africa Saturday night was why on earth they let Fourie du Preez step away from the Springbok top table for two years.

    The scrum-half might be thinner on top these days, but the grey matter underneath is firing as quickly as ever.

    The rest of his side proved to be as belligerent as you’d expect, smashing the Welsh back at every opportunity and proving too strong in attack for their hosts to deny their early salvos.

    Just as Wales looked to be chipping and chivvying their way back into things, du Preez’s wonderful left boot turned them round and gave Jaque Fourie the chance to race on to the ball before feeding the supporting du Preez to score.

    It was all his performance deserved, and it gave the Boks the perfect start to their autumn campaign.

1. New Zealand

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    New Zealand’s night out in Paris was as raw boned as they come. After starting well, they were pinned back by a fervent French effort, but in that first half, their rearguard was outstanding.

    As we have come to expect from this side, when their chance eventually came, they took it like a boxer waiting for an opening in his opponent’s defence.

    The grubber from Ben Smith was weighted perfectly, the chase and dab forward from Charles Piutau was executed with skill and at high speed, and the All Blacks had the French back on the leash.

    Piutau’s sleight of hand for Kieran Read’s try was as though the youngster was channeling Sonny Bill Williams in his pomp.

    France hurled the kitchen sink at Steve Hansen’s side, and it was only when the gap had become unbridgeable that they managed to puncture their defences.

    This contest arguably extended New Zealand moreso than their clash with South Africa in Johannesburg last month, and they were not found wanting.

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