Who scores good marks and who fails dismally in our 2020 international rugby report cards.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
2020 was a rather complicated year and every sport around the globe felt it, with rugby being no different. While most countries have been able to stage some sort of domestic tournament, a number have not been able to participate in international rugby.
Nine sides were more fortunate, though, and we’ll take a look at how the Tri-Nations and Six Nations sides went during the year.
The English were as solid as every winning seven of the nine games they played this term. While their brand of rugby is about as entertaining as watching paint dry, you can’t argue that it’s not effective.
The only side that England had any troubles against this year was France, whom they lost to by seven points and then needed extra time against to beat in the Autumn Nations Cup final. It will be interesting to see how the English go against Les Bleus in the coming years as the French look like they may well become the Roses bogey team.
Overall, the English get a solid A rating. A good year for Eddie Jones’ boys.
We saw a far from vintage Kiwi side this term as Ian Foster’s first year at the helm of the All Blacks produced an extremely mixed bag.
While the men from New Zealand managed to retain the Bledisloe Cup and win the Tri-Nations, they suffered some ignominious moments along the way losing to Argentina for the first time ever while drawing with a new-look Australian side.
Forster and his All Blacks are in a rather interesting place. While most coaches will tell you it’s a dream having a wealth of quality players, this abundance of talent is hindering Foster, who hasn’t got a clue who to field in his backline from week to week. He really needs to sort this aspect out if he is to avoid being axed before his contract runs out.
The All Blacks get a B rating from me, and this is only because they won two titles.
It was an odd old year for the Wallabies who drew three of the six games they played. While they did manage a draw in New Zealand, it was rather disappointing to see them held to two draws on home soil by Argentina.
There are positive signs for the men in green and gold, however, with the most positive being the young talent coming through. Rookies Harry Wilson, Jordan Paeitia, Noah Lolesio and Hunter Paisami have shown some very promising signs, and if Dave Rennie can keep this core group of players together, then we may well see the Australians once again become a real force on the international stage.
Perhaps my rating is a bit too harsh, and I really do think Rennie will be pleased with a lot of things, but I think you can’t give a team more than a C+ if they draw twice against Argentina on home soil.
It was a really good year for Los Pumas who finally got that elusive win over New Zealand and also finished the Tri-Nations as runners up – off-pitch controversy aside.
The Pumas’ record for the year reads played four Tri-Nations games, drew two, won one and lost one. This is pretty impressive considering they had minimal game time in the lead up to the tournament.
One of the key factors for Los Pumas success was the return of some overseas-based veterans who came in and added some much-needed guile. If they are to remain as competitive as they were this year they will need to ensure these overseas players continue representing the national side.
For their win over New Zealand alone, the Argentines get an A.
Irish rugby is in big trouble, and I don’t mean just financially. Like New Zealand head coach Ian Foster, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is having a tough old time finding the right balance in his backline. While he has a heap of talent at his disposal, some of this talent may well be over the hill and need replacing.
In terms of results, the Irish managed five wins from the eight games they played this term. While this isn’t the worst return, it also needs to be considered that some of their victories were extremely underwhelming including a battling win against Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Viva Les Bleus. The French have been an absolute breath of Fresh air this season. While the current crop don’t play that sparkling champagne rugby the classic French sides of the 80s and 90s regularly displayed, they’re still great value to watch.
The French really did enjoy and immaculate season winning losing just two of the nine games they played. They also came oh so close to winning both the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup with a narrow defeat to Scotland in the former and an extra-time defeat to England in the latter’s final seeing them end the season with no silverware.
While not claiming a trophy will have hurt the French, it will have also been a great learning experience for their youngsters who will now know they can’t take the gas off the pedal in any games if they are to add to a trophy cabinet that is littered with junior and age group silverware, but is desperately lacking in senior accolades.
Wayne Pivac will be out of a job come this time next year. You mark my words. Warren Gatland’s successor does not look a quality coach and is being found out at international level.
Wales only managed to win one of their five Six Nations games and also registered just two wins from their four Autumn Nations Cup games and those victories came against minnow sides Italy – who were the only team they beat in the Six Nations – and Georgia.
A very poor year for the Welsh who are unlikely to improve while Pyvac is at the helm.
It wasn’t the best nor was it the worst year for Scottish rugby with the men in tartan registering fourth-place finishes in both the 6 Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup.
The most pleasing thing for the Scots this season will be how they’ve extended their talented pool Mainly through the nationalization of South Africans. They now have a blockbuster winger in the form of Duhan van der Merve, while recently nationilized pivot Jaco van der Walt provides them with great backline depth as he can also slot in at full-back.
The big cities of Scotland are fast becoming packed with South Africans who could well usher in a golden era of Scottish rugby.
It’s been another poor year for the Italians who won none of their eight fixtures and finished the year with a staggering negative points differential of 199.
There have been a few signs of encouragement for the Italians. Young fly-half Paolo Garbisi looks a promising talent and is far more well-rounded than his predecessors. Their two PRO14 teams are also playing some decent rugby and have a couple of solid young players coming through the ranks.
It was always going to be a year of transition for the Italians with stalwart Sergio Parrise having retired. While they have improved in some areas, they’ve also backtracked in others. Here’s hoping the Azzuri perform a bit better in 2021.
Written by Darry Worthington.