Watchability rankings: November
RugbyPass included international sides in their breakdown of the must-watch sides from November.
Inclusion is based on the performances each side has produced over the past month, whether that’s the product of phenomenal skill or a horrifying train wreck.
Gloucester’s remarkable run of late which has seen them lose only once in the last six games was capped off by an emphatic victory away at Newcastle on Friday night, which saw the Cherry & Whites climb to third in the Premiership. Whilst they’d be back down in fifth by the end of the weekend, it’s nonetheless an impressive accomplishment for a side many were anticipating might be staring at the southern end of the table this season. The four-try Newcastle victory was all well and good, but the real reason for their inclusion in this list has to be their dramatic comeback win against table-toppers Saracens. Heading into the tunnel at Kingsholm 3-9 down, Gloucester somehow racked up 20 points against Saracen’s formidable defence in the second half, and only a late penalty from Ben Spencer meant Saracens got anything out of the game. Gloucester remain unbeaten at home and, whilst not as picture-perfect as other sides, they’re getting those all-important wins to prove the doubters wrong.
3: South Africa
From impressive wins to…something else. South African rugby has become something of a go-to punching bag of late, so it seems a little harsh to include them in this list. However, there’s certainly a sense of morbid fascination to be had from watching a once-proud rugby nation with bags of potential making history for all the wrong reasons. They kicked off their tour with a record-setting loss to an impressive Ireland side in Dublin, with the 38-3 drubbing the largest winning margin Ireland have ever had over the Springboks. An unconvincing one-point victory over France followed, and whilst some honour was restored with a 35-6 thrashing of Italy, South Africa will not be looking forward to this weekend’s visit to Cardiff to take on Wales. South Africa’s inclusion in this list is largely down to the curiosity to be had from seeing exactly what’s going to happen next – both on the field and off.
There’s a new in-form team in the Midlands of late, and it’s not who you’d expect. Worcester have done the double over both Leicester and Northampton this month, and in the process might have just about done enough to secure their Premiership safety for another year. Things off the field might not be completely rosy, but having won at Welford Road for the first time in 122 years, as well as embarrassing a pitiful Saints side, things at Sixways are looking up. Not only were the results impressive but so were the performances, with a hat-trick of tries from Bryce Heem contributing to a bonus point victory over the Saints, and were it not for a late Gareth Owens try at Welford Road the scoreline would have been even more impressive. Worcester now head to Sale full of confidence, and if they can keep their dangerous backline involved, they’re more than capable of pulling off another very entertaining performance.
What can be said about Scotland that hasn’t been said already? For the past few years, Scotland have been undergoing the kind of journey usually only seen in summer blockbusters or particularly well-written professional wrestling. After coming agonizingly close against Australia in the 2015 World Cup, everyone’s favourite underdogs have been getting better and better, only to find themselves facing another setback, before dusting themselves off and continuing their upward climb. Nothing has exemplified this better than their performances this month. They opened the series with an emotional battle against a tough Samoa side before last-minute heartbreak saw Stuart Hogg knock on just shy of securing a famous victory over the All Blacks. Having made the best side in the world work so hard only to see New Zealand take home the win anyway would have deflated any other team, but Scotland seem to made of sterner stuff than most (something about girders…). A week later, Scotland obliterated an in-form Australia side with their largest ever winning margin over the Wallabies. In true Scotland style, they added a pinch of drama with the injury to Hogg in the warm-up, but after a brutal clear out saw Sekope Kepu sent off, Scotland capitalised and eventually put eight tries past the Aussies. Scotland top our most watchable list for their stellar performances and guaranteed drama provided the sound of bagpipes doesn’t leave you reaching for the earplugs.