The Autumn Internationals 2019 – How did Twelve Nations get on?
3 November Spain 29 Wales 5
9 November France 10 England 20
10 November Ireland 13 Wales 15
16 November Italy 17 Japan 17
20 November USA 0 Canada 19
16 November England 17 France 15
17 November Scotland 3 Wales 17
23 November England 60 Italy 3
24 November Scotland 20 Japan 24
24 November USA 27 Canada 52
26 November Netherlands 12 Hong Kong 14
30 November Netherlands 0 Hong Kong 18
Canada: demolished their neighbours, first in the wet, then in the dry. So dominant, you must wonder how the Eagles beat them back in July 46-43. They will take some beating at this rate.
England: another unbeaten autumn series, but their only decisive win was against Italy. They kept their unbeaten home run of 17 wins by a matter of seconds against France.
France: desperately disappointing to lose both games against the Red Roses; the away loss was even more harrowing than the home one. This drops them below Canada to fourth place in world rankings.
Hong Kong: Jo Hull, their head coach, will be delighted to come away from a second tour of Europe with two wins out of two. She blooded several youngsters to widen her player-strength.
Ireland: another worrying home loss, this time to Wales. They were the odd 6-Nations team out, playing only that single game and losing. The pick-up from the last World Cup is taking a long time to achieve, but it’s hard to see why. They have so many fine players and a great tradition.
Italy: two steps back for the Azzurre as they failed to hold out against the visiting Japanese, then slumped to their heaviest defeat ever against England. Here are the previous encounters:
9 March 2019: England 55-0 Italy
4 February 2018: Italy 7-42 England
13 August 2017: England 56-13 Italy
25 February 2017: England 29-15
13 February 2016: Italy 24-33 England
15 February 2015 England 39-7 Italy
16 March 2014: Italy 0-24 England170 caps
9 March 2013: England 34-0 Italy
Di Giandomenico made some surprising changes for the England game, probably forced on him by injury and the lack of obvious replacements. He had the experienced left-winger Sofia Stefan paired with the 20-year-old Micol Cavina (4 caps) in a half-back partnership that couldn’t get its back line running freely and often.
Japan: the Sakuras’ ground-breaking tour of Europe proved a great success. They came back to draw with Italy, then showed Scotland how far they still have to travel. Their speed of continuity marked them out; rapid repossessions and passes won them seven tries. They brought 30 players with a total of only 170 caps, less than 6 per player. This inexperience counted for little. Great credit to the squad and Lesley Mackenzie, their Canadian head coach since January.
Netherlands: Former test prop Sylke Haverkorn has now been tasked with rebuilding the country’s women’s 15s team as the newly-appointed head coach. She’s introducing a women’s U18s team and putting plans in place for more national age-grade teams. More important, she arranged a two-test visit by Hong Kong, a 2017 WRWC side. The Dutch lost the first by two points in a tense comeback, but fell away disappointingly four days later, failing to register a point..
Scotland: Philip Doyle is ringing the changes, but some features are unwilling to budge. Once again his new-look team failed to last the course against Japan at Scotstoun, going down 20-24. They were 20-10 up with ten minutes to go (four tries including two by Megan Gaffney), but they leaked two crucial tries. In the final analysis it was the lack of conversion kicks that did for them. Somehow Doyle must get his side playing right up to the ref’s final blast.
USA: the Eagles have few chances to prove themselves, and as often as not it’s against their northern neighbours. Unfortunately for them the Maple Leafs are looking a thoroughly mean outfit. The two Chula Vista games were played in contrasting weather conditions, the first wet in the extreme. But in both contests the Eagles found Canadian forward-power and slick back-play too much for them. Rob Cain hasn’t yet found lift-off for his charges.
Wales: they will be by far the happiest of the three Celtic nations. Theirs was the broadest programme, blending three tests with two outings against distinguished invitational sides from all over the world. After a worrying start in Madrid the two away wins will probably please them most. Chris Horsman, the forwards coach, said: ‘Our ambition for this campaign is to develop strength in depth, improve fitness and grow together as a team. We believe that will help us to close the gap between us and the best teams in the world.’
Their happiest memories will certainly be their final game against a ten-nation Barbarians side on a first visit to the Principality Stadium. Over 12,000 spectators arrived early to watch the women before the men took the stage. Final score: 15-29
Several new faces in the Welsh line-up. Point of interest: three of Crawshay’s 8 points came from a drop goal by Ellie Green (Quins), the first drop-goal I have registered this season.
World Rankings (the top 15 as of 26 November 2019)
New Zealand 93.88
South Africa 63.39
England have climbed as close to the leaders as they’ve been since they last sat (briefly) on top two years ago.
Canada’s two wins over the USA see them rise above France – again.
Australia’s position seems curious for a nation that plays so little 15s.
Italy sit above three of their Six Nations opponents, but they aren’t making headway against England and France.
Spain’s position reinforces their call to be reinstated in the 6N.
Japan have made a huge leap after their unbeaten tour of Europe. They have successful ways of making up for their lack of size. By beating Scotland they have achieved a men-women double.
The Netherlands are making a strong bid to improve their 15s game under a new head coach, Sylke Haverkorn, who, a former test player herself, has the unusual distinction of coaching both a male and a female club to national championship wins.
This vast number of autumn test matches is one of the best indicators for the future of women’s rugby.