Ireland proved it in Chicago, it can happen! Only thing is - and this is going to sound really stupid - the key to beating the All Blacks is to score more points than them. Pretty obvious stuff, but in 2016 the All Blacks scored an average 40.14 points per game. That’s a phenomenal 562 points across 14 games. Tries per game – 5.7! That is a hell of load of points/tries!
So how did Ireland beat them? Simply by figuring out a way to get 40 points past the most organised team in the world. Not an easy task, hats off!
Yes we have said it, there is no doubt the gulf between north and south is gone, even with New Zealand still being by far the number one rugby side in the world.
But Ireland have just become the first team since 2003 to beat Austraila, New Zealand and South Africa in 1 calendar year.
Wales and Italy beat South Africa. Scotland narrowly lost to Australia and beat Argentina. whilst France came desperately close to beating Australia and New Zealand.
England dominated Australia in the summer and we’ll see how the final international fixture of 2016 at Twickenham pans out for the final conclusion.
The gap has closed, hopefully the days of “Grand Slam” tours of the Northern Hemisphere are gone.
The Tier 2 Nations are also closing the gap
The Tier 2 nations are bring up the rear at a pace. World Rugby have given them loads more game time this Autumn and the teams have seized the chance with both hands.
Tonga beat Italy, Japan ran Wales very close, and Georgia proved their worth against Scotland.
No team from the tier 2 was ever humiliated like days of old, and the games between the tier 2 nations were all very competitive.
The more these teams rise, the more exciting rugby will become in the future.
South Africa have slumped to their worst ever world ranking – 6th.
They desperately need to kick the politics out of the sport and allow the best players and coaches to rise to the top.
Also we are big fans of teams playing to their historical strengths. South Africa has to get back to being the muscular powerhouse of the past.
Wales are in a difficult place at the moment. Yes they won 3 from 4 which is good record, but the rugby played was by and large dull.
Their head coach Warren Gatland is on a year’s sabbatical with the British & Irish Lions. Rob Howley has the reigns in between, there is a sense he would like the players to adapt and play a more exciting brand of rugby, but it isn't something that is going to happen quickly.
Gatland-ball has brought the team great success, however rugby is leaving that style of play behind, you need several creative players to unlock today's organised defences.
Also the experience in the squad is immense, but where is the next generation coming through? The old guard needs pushed on and the youngsters need to be blooded now.
Results speak for themselves in the former cases. Ireland won 3 from 4, England have so far won 3 from 3 and looking favourites for their last game in the Autumn series, not to mention they are 12 from 12 in 2016, an awesome stat!
Scotland will be kicking themselves for letting another game against the Wallabies just slip from their grasp, however they were competitive till the death.
Against Argentina the rugby played wasn’t as glamorous but a result was ground out, a game that would likely have slipped before Vern Cotter's arrival.
Finally a fine win against Georgia finished the series. All this while contending with a fairly lengthy injury list and uncovering yet another world-class centre in Huw Jones. The Scotland coaches have a nice selection headache on their hands.
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