World order 'all shook up' by July results
The winds of change have swept through the international game in the past few weeks, with historic firsts and a potential changing of the guard at the top of the world game – as Northern Hemisphere teams excelled down south.
Ireland’s first series victory in New Zealand has sent them rocketing to the top of the global rankings, while their outclassed hosts dropped to fourth – their lowest ever ranking.
England claimed a 2-1 series victory in Australia and Wales gave world champions South Africa a mighty scare by claiming a first away win against the Springboks before ultimately losing the series.
With little more than 14 months till the World Cup in France, this month’s internationals suggest the tournament will be wide open.
New Zealand in particular will need to rediscover their mojo.
They have lost four of their past five Tests, piling pressure on coach Ian Foster, who refused to discuss his future after the latest defeat.
“For some reason, we’re just not as calm,” Foster told reporters.
“In the defence area, we’re getting a bit fidgety. New Zealanders have got to realise that this was a very good Irish team; they deserve their time in the sun.”
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Irish eyes may be smiling, but Ireland has a history of peaking between World Cups and now face the significant challenge of carrying recent momentum into next year.
“I have talked about the leadership group, how they’ve grown and developed, and we’ve coached this team together,” coach Andy Farrell said.
“It’s the proudest I’ve been as part of a group.”
South Africa’s superiority finally showed in their 30-14 third Test win over Wales in Cape Town to clinch that series, but there is no doubt they were rocked by the tourists.
Wales might have won the first test as well had they shown more composure in Pretoria.
“We’re very pleased; the positives outweigh the negatives,” Wales coach Wayne Pivac said of their tour.
“It was a big step in the right direction.”
Following their series win in Australia, England coach Eddie Jones believes his side is in a “great position” ahead of their World Cup campaign.
“It is a really positive step, we always felt the team was going in the right direction. Sometimes results don’t reflect that,” Jones said.
“It is like training a racehorse. We don’t want to be at our best until the World Cup finals; we need to keep building the base, the depth, the competition and our style of play. We are in a good position.”
Argentina’s dramatic 34-31 victory over Scotland in Santiago secured their series two-one.