The Autumn XV

After a riveting few weeks of international matches, we’ve put together the 15 players we think performed best over the course of the autumn internationals. Unsurprisingly, it has a distinct Southern Hemisphere flavour to it, with Wales’ George North and England’s duo of Tom Wood and Joe Launchbury the only players from the Six Nations sides to make the team.

Ireland and France will feel hard done by, but put simply, they failed to register a win against top level opposition – for some of the Ireland players’ brilliance against NZ, there was an equally abject performance the week before against Australia. The consistency was not there.

TRB’s Autumn 2013 XV:
15. Israel Folau (Australia)
14. Julian Savea (New Zealand)
13. Ben Smith (New Zealand)
12. Jean de Villiers (South Africa)
11. George North (Wales)
10. Quade Cooper (Australia)
9. Fourie du Preez (South Africa)
1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)
2. Stephen Moore (Australia)
3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)
4. Joe Launchbury (England)
5. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
6. Tom Wood (England)
7. Michael Hooper (Australia)
8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)

Honourable mentions go to: Mike Brown, Charles Piutau, Nick Cummins, Ma’a Nonu, Wesley Fofana, Bismarck du Plessis, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Richie McCaw, Toby Faletau.

What do you make of our selection? Would you change anything?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

45 thoughts on “The Autumn XV

  1. Yep, despite an honourable attempt to get an Englishman in there, he has to go – didn’t outplay NZ or SA second rows and didn’t look much better than AWJ, if at all, to me either.

        1. I misunderstood. “Outplay” was probably the wrong word, “play better than” would be more appropriate.

        2. Massively disagree with you here, Brighty.

          Launchbury completely outplayed the Aussie locks, I’m not sure which other SA lock you are talking about that stood out? So other than maybe Sam Whitelock who else can go in? Retallick didn’t really live up to his Rugby Championship form either. I don’t think AWJ had a particulary good Autumn, out muscled by SA, didn’t play against Tonga and not great against Australia?

          Launchbury was fantastic this Autumn in every game – more than justified his selection here.

          The English pack showed it was as good as any in the world, so I’m not sure why you’ve gone for the “honourable attempt to get an Englishman in there” jibe. They outplayed the Aussie pack and Argentinian pack this Autumn, and were just as good, if not better, than the AB pack.

          If anything, I’d probably also have Hartley in there as well for the team of the Autumn.

          1. Can’t agree with that assessment Jacob. I didn’t see the Eng pack dominate NZ – I saw some parity but honestly I was surprised at all of the press plaudits for a losing team. It’s becoming a theme – an NZ side who even gets close to NZ now gets showered with plaudits.

            Imagining some of the barbs I might get back – I am not saying they were rubbish, just saying NZ and SA packs were/are better. Also not saying Wales are/were a better pack.

            1. I need to type more slowly, that’s twice in one thread now.

              “an NZ side who even gets close to NZ now gets showered with plaudits.” – I meant “any NH side who even gets close to NZ now gets showered with plaudits.”

            2. Where did I say the English pack dominated NZ?

              I said the England pack were just as good (yes, I threw in the “if not better”, but I’m aware that is mainly a slight English bias).

              I’m not sure what SA lock you mean Brighty? Etzebeth is there, no other lock stood out for me. And as I’ve already said, Retallick looked short of his previous performances. Sam Whitelock (as I’ve already said), was presumably close to making this team, but it hardly fair to suggest it is some sort of English bias to go with Launchbury over him.

              1. “were just as good, if not better, than the AB pack. ” – I interpreted the “if not better” as you suggesting they were better than them and hence “outplayed”. Seeing the rest of your comment I see you’ve noted that.

                1. Still doesn’t really answer my question.

                  Who played better at lock that Launchbury this Autumn? I’m still not sure who you think outplayed him enough for the selection to be mocked.

            3. 62% possession and 60% territory, factor in the lineout falling apart at the end, England dominated the ABs upfront for a large part of the game (actually think the pack went better this year than last year’s win). The lack of any edge (even a blunt one) in the backs is where that game was lost.

              1. Agree with you that we probably slightly edged the AB pack this Autumn – but not like we did the year before.

                @ Brighty – I stand by my “were just as good, if not better, than the AB pack.” – but you saying I suggested we dominated them is simply misquoting me.

                1. Surprisingly we only managed 48% possession and territory last year, however we produced 10 clean breaks to zero this year.

  2. Other than Hartley for Moore I would not make any changes to this team at all; nice picks Jamie.

    My first reaction was the Owen Franks shouldn’t be in there, but then I failed to think of a tight-head that played really well this Autumn and couldn’t so I can’t really argue that one. Maybe Malberhe? He looked good, but I can see why you went for Franks.

    1. Was the dilemma I had really, not sure any tightheads did themselves any major favours this autumn! Hartley was also close (in fact he was pencilled in), but I thought Moore was superb against Ireland so he got the nod for me.

      1. The only Irish men who I think are in with a shout are Conor Murray (didn’t start against Aus) and Sean o brien for me was world class in all he did and can feel hard done by.

    2. Hartley was superb but Moore’s ballhandling skills and open play were as good as some backs’ at times and he stood up at scrum time when many expected their tight 5 to crumble in the set piece.

  3. If a Lions team was being picked based solely on the Autumn, then Mike Brown would be the 15. Was absolutely superb for England whilst Halfpenny, as you said, was quiet.

    1. Even as an England fan I get frustrated that 1/2p doesn’t back himself ball-in-hand more often. He did it in the third Lions test, and picked up two try assists for his efforts.

  4. Agree with the point on consistency over the games, but Healy and O’Brien made a huge contribution to one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen, think they deserve an honourable mention.

    Not so sure over Franks at tighthead, England’s 3rd choice prop and France’s second choice gave him a fairly tough time. Can’t think of any stand out candidates but maybe Mas was the most consistent.

    Launchbury a debatable pick as well (think Lawes was the better of the two English locks)

    Tom Wood’s performances as part of a balanced back row just make the decision to move him to 8 look even more ridiculous (cost him a chance to tour with the Lions in my opinion)

    1. None of us were happy with the Wood at 8 scenario, but it was born out of necessity. Morgan was injured against Scotland, and then Billy V was denied his debut thanks to an injury on the eve of the France game. Rather than bring in a new player so late, Bomber was going for consistency – and it didn’t pay off. I don’t think we’ll see anything like that again…

      1. Hope you are right and we don’t see anything of the like again. Dowson at 8, Brown on the wing, Foden on the wing …. bit too much history of picking people out of position who don’t really have all the attributes/skill set to excel where selected. I’m not confident the lesson has been learned yet.

      2. Could have and should have played Easter at 8. No need to blood someone new and it would have been pretty obvious that it was only through necessity

    2. Lawes got an honourable mention; I do think over the course of three 30 minutes matches Launchbury was ever so slightly better.

      Completely agree with you on Wood; so unlucky for him. Brilliant player and it’ll be vital we keep him fit running into 2015.

  5. Like Matt, I would have a preference for Lawes over Launchbury – although I may be swayed by his more obvious tackles. Little between them to be honest.

    Not sure about No7. From what I saw he wasn’t great, certainly not against England. I thought Dusautoir and O’Brien both did well from the bits and pieces I saw.

    As Jamie says, their teams didn’t beat the Southern teams, but i’m not sure that this was a reflection of their play as individuals.

    Whilst there is no question on No8 – obviously, I would say that young Billy was as impressive as cousin Toby, and deserves mention.

    To paraphrase Brighty, is Toby (and not Billy) an “honourable attempt to get a(nother) Welshman in there?” ;-)

    Most of the remainder really pick themselves.

  6. Surprised no one has mentioned Robshaw or Hibbard. Thought Hibbard played excellently, with only the lineout in the last match blotting his copybook. Hooper gets in at 7, but who played him off the park and completely neutralised him in the England game? It was probably a combination of Wood and Robshaw to be fair. Not completely convinced Robshaw deserves to be in the AI 15 but thought he deserved a mention.

  7. The England pack did dominate the ABs. On top in the scrum, line outs and at the breakdown. The forwards turned over the ABs forwards 5 times, whereas the England forwards were only turned over 3 times. Hardly any teams do that to the ABs.

    I suggest some of you check facts before you post. You sound very silly.

  8. I think tonner deserves an honorably mention was really good in the three test along with obrien, and heaslip! if only we could hide the aus match from peoples memories! D’arcy had the game of his life against nz but really only 3 players on our team that could possibly get an honorable mention!!

  9. The six nations sides even get hammered in the honourable mentions?

    I’d definitely have had Heaslip, O’Brien, Jonathan Davies, Conor Murray, Robshaw, Mas and Hartley competing for those mentions, if not even first-XV places.

    1. Did Davies only play about four minutes of the autumn internationals? Now we know he’s a seriously good world class player, but good enough to oust every other 13 in the world in five minutes? Come on

  10. I find it hard to follow your logic.

    You state, fairly enough, that the inconsistency of Ireland and France, and their lack of a big win against a top side relegates them so that none of their players are included. Debatable, but fair enough.

    But then you choose George North, because Wales lost both of their games against South Africa and Australia, only meekly beating Tonga, and then Argentina, who had a terrible record in 2013.

    According to your rules set out, big performances from Nick Cummins, Charles Piutau and Willie le Roux would be ahead of North.

    Then seem to forget that Eben Etzebeth got injured against Scotland, and his involvement this November was limited.

    1. I think they key difference was that Wales competed strongly but lost narrowly – same old story!

      Ireland got embarrassed by the Aussies, so any good performance was negated by that terrible performance.

      Good point on Etzebeth – thought he was very good against Wales though.

    2. I didn’t read RBs reason for omitting Ireland players in that way – they say that the players were abject against Aus, which I agree with. It’s not that Ireland lost to Aus, it’s that their players put in a shameful performance against Aus that has kept them out of this XV. I’ve heard arguments that O’Brien wasn’t poor in that game – maybe, I’m not so sure but will admit that if you’re the only boy in the team even trying then it’s going to be hard to make yourself look good.

  11. How the hell is Sean O’Brien not in that team?!

    I’ve never seen the man have a poor game or take a step backwards whether he is clad in blue, green or red.

    He is head and shoulders the best back row forward in Europe rampaging at 6 or stifling opponents at 7.

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