November internationals round 3 review - What the fans are asking

Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree
Can England regroup after defeat to South Africa?
©Press Association

"Can England win the World Cup?"
"Is McCaw over the hill?"
"Could Scotland have won?"

The November Autumn Internationals Round 3 saw some close matches with the damp conditions keeping the scores close in most games.

Autumn November Internationals Round 3 results

Italy 18 - 20 Argentina

Samoa 23 - 13 Canada

Romania 13 - 18 Japan

England 28 - 31 South Africa

Scotland 16 - 24 New Zealand

Wales 17 - 13 Fiji

Tonga 40 - 12 USA

France 29 - 26 Australia

The conditions are something to take into consideration and as we approach #RWC2015 teams will need to take account of these and other factors.

The comfort of an armchair and the increased TV coverage allows more analysis of all the games being played. Last week at Twickenham the ground was at full capacity but surprisingly chanting abuse rather than support.

The new big screens at the ground seemed to have an impact on how the crowd viewed the game and supported the home team. There was a sense that the TV director was influencing decision making and the crowd's behaviour.

So here at Talking Rugby Union we have been listening to rugby union fans in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Here are some questions we are asking following The November Autumn Internationals Round 3;

1) The damp conditions definitely kept matches close with the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and France all winning close matches. Other teams to win by narrow margins included Argentina, Japan and Wales. Will the conditions be the same at the Rugby World Cup 2015? This could have a major impact on which players and styles team choose for next years tournament in England.

2) Will the Rugby World Cup 2015 be won by the team with the best rolling maul? The England vs Springboks game was interesting because of the rolling mauls yesterday, with mixed views from the pundits. The England team and its manager under pressure because of poor results and an inability to close out games, used the rolling maul intelligently, after the Matfield yellow card.

3) Will there always be controversial refereeing decisions in professional rugby? Our NZ reporter, Scott Donaldson shared his thoughts, "I think that it is widely understood that there will be some bad refereeing calls in matches. Is it time to simply grin and bear it? For example, in the England vs South Africa game, England's second try came from a terrible call from the assistant referee on the sideline who wrongly ruled that Bryan Habana had taken the ball into touch just outside his 22.  

"The truth of the matter is that his foot was grounded and South Africa should've been awarded a lineout back where the kick was from. This could have changed the outcome of the match entirely."

It will be interesting to see how the big screen and replays are used during the Rugby World Cup.

4) Do certain players get tougher treatment because of their reputations? It is hard to know how serious Dylan Hartley's stomping on the prone Springboks forward was, but in the good old days he would have got away with it. The interesting thing is that Hartley has a reputation for foul play which doesn't help his cause.

5) Is experience the key to winning? The two most experienced teams in the world, New Zealand and South Africa aren't the best two teams by chance. Their experience gets them through most matches. Players like Victor Matfield, Paul O'Connell and Richie McCaw could be considered over the hill by the ill-informed, but their influence is critical for the success of their team.

They have a presence and give the impression they are part of a legacy. At Twickenham last weekend there was a sense that McCaw was playing for the All Blacks and his opposite number, Robshaw was playing for Stuart Lancaster.

6) Are England rugby crowds getting worse? Is it part of the home advantage? Is it a good look for the Rugby World Cup 2015?  

The Twickenham crowd at England home games have been ruthless with their behaviour this year. Last week they were at their worst with comments about openly gay referee Nigel Owens' sexuality and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw being constantly labelled a cheat.

Is this part of the home advantage? The big matches are played at the same time that most rugby players are kicking off in their league games. These are real rugby folk. As Eddie Butler said on BBC 5 Live, it is "a different audience".

Our cameras were at Stourton Park to watch Stourbridge RFC in National 2; talking with spectators it was surprising how many had turned down the opportunity to go to Twickenham to watch 'their team'.

7) How was Dan Carter's return to rugby? He had a relatively average game by his own high standards. Maybe that is why he didn't play against England. It was also great to see Colin Slade putting pressure on Carter to retain his spot, along with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.

8) How much can we really read into the IRB rugby rankings? Scotland pushed the All Blacks far closer than they should have based on their standings (see rankings table on the right). The same can be said about Fiji pushing Wales closely.

9) Isn't it interesting seeing so many players from "overseas" playing for other nations? As a Kiwi, Scott recognises at least one player in several other national teams. It is a sign of the times.  

10) Can England win the Rugby World Cup? The team in the last two weeks has shown glimpses of promise, but seem to lack that killer instinct. Maybe they lack experience.

They also seem to lack the x-Factor we saw from England during their June International tour to New Zealand. Stuart Lancaster has a 6 year contract extension despite a win ratio of less than 60% and a loss to Australia in two weeks time will heap pressure on him and his team.

The team has huge strength in depth, impressive resources and financial standing. They cannot be overlooked, however, the inability of Lancaster and his coaches to find match winners continues to haunt.

11) Rotation or not? With some expected one-sided matches over the weekend, teams like New Zealand, Wales and Ireland have rotated their squads to keep players fresh. This almost backfired on the All Blacks and Wales, but they still won.  

Is it worth blooding new players or does this happen naturally through form and injuries? Do the All Blacks, Wales and Ireland have as much depth as they think or is a win, a win no matter what the margin?

What are your thoughts on the November Autumn Internationals questions raised above?


2019 Rugby World Cup Points Table