Samoa put up stern resistance against England
In Eddie Jones’ most left-field squad since taking the helm (Lions-influenced Argentina tour notwithstanding), Twickenham was left a little underwhelmed. It was a chance for fringe players to take their chance, the squad as a whole to expand elements of their game against an opposition that should have been – and eventually were – put to the sword. It wasn’t quite such plain sailing though. It never is against a team with the passion and physicality of Samoa.
True, certain players did throw their hat into the ring, but others weren’t able to reproduce their impressive club form on the international stage and the way the team gelled – perhaps expectedly – won’t have swayed Jones from keeping to the tried and tested come the start of the Six Nations.
It started deceptively well, with Mike Brown cantering over in the second minute and Alex Lozowski adding another soon after. Then Samoa roared back with a try of their own and had their hosts at sixes-and-sevens at ruck time. The brutality of some of their clear-outs completely killed any momentum that England had. Bath man Charlie Ewels crashed over ten minutes before halftime, but that would be it for the hosts until the tremendous Elliot Daly grabbed the first of his two tries in the sixty-first minute. That initiated a late flurry that helped England to a 48-14 win that would have been a minimum expectation before the game, but during it felt a long way off.
Questions will be asked about whether Jones has wasted an opportunity this Autumn in not playing with combinations and giving more players more of a chance to assert themselves as legitimate back-ups/potential starters. However, the fact remains that he has bred a winning culture that we can hope lasts through to the World Cup in two years time. For now, they have a tilt at a third successive Six Nations and possibly the biggest test of their credentials yet, with Scotland and Ireland on an upward trajectory and Wales finding an attacking verve that may cause problems yet.
Warriors make history
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts to the 2017/18 campaign for Worcester, but how they have found some form. After a comfortable first win against Saints last weekend, they have now beaten Tigers at Welford Road for the first time in 122 years of trying, seeing off their Midlands rivals 31-27.
Exeter also got a vital win at the top of the table, edging Saracens 20-18. There were also wins for Wasps 17-13 against London Irish, Bath 38-14 over Harlequins and Sale 18-15 at home to Saints. Gloucester also continued their majestic run of form, overturning Newcastle – themselves on the slide – at Kingston Park 29-7.
Scotland destroy the Wallabies
Scotland put down a marker to the rest of the Six Nations teams by steam-rolling 14-man Australia 53-24. After giving the All Blacks a scare last weekend, their European rivals are sitting up to take notice after putting half a century of points past the Wallabies, and that Calcutta Cup encounter at Murrayfield is starting to look very exciting.
What happened elsewhere?
Jess Breach scored another mountain of tries for England Women in a 69-19 win over Canada. France managed a draw at home to Japan, despite being outscored three tries to two, whilst Wales slipped to a 33-18 loss to New Zealand, despite being on top for large parts of the game. Ireland joined England in a 100% November, beating Argentina 28-19. Italy weren’t able to match last year’s historic victory against South Africa, succumbing 35-6. Glasgow also maintained their perfect Pro14 start and La Rochelle kept up the pressure on Montpellier at the top of the Top14.
Try of the weekend
Elliot Daly‘s second effort against Samoa was a lesson in poise, elegance and how to turn on the after burners in electric style. A classy try in a classy outing from a classy player.
Hero of the weekend
How Worcester’s coaching team have taken them from a side looking down the barrel of playing catch up in a season long relegation scrap, to history makers in a win at Leicester is a miracle.
Villain of the weekend
I found all the talk in the build up to the Samoa game about the lack of money available to England’s opposition a bit confusing. It was obviously a game of the haves against the have-nots, but any criticism levelled at the RFU and England’s players was mis-directed, in my view. It should be World Rugby putting the structures in place to aid unions like Samoa (and unions like the RFU should be willing to help as much as is needed), but it should also be about Samoa looking after the funds they do receive as well. Either way, it is the players and fans that seem to suffer the most.
– Who will start for England in the 6 Nations?
– Who put their hand up at the weekend and who failed to take their chance?
– Can you see a way back for London Irish now?
by Joe Large