Stuart Barnes on the autumn internationals, his pick for Player of the Year, and Danny Care’s place in the England team…
1. Technically, Australia were every bit as good as England. The margin on the scoreboard may have looked like a chasm – 24 points is a hammering in most books. Yet the evidence of the eyes suggests that if these teams were to meet next week, Australia would have every chance. So much for the eyes.
What a spectator cannot see is the depth of self-belief that comes with winning. When you are used to winning, when you expect to win, chances are you will.
It’s easier to maintain poise under pressure, less likely a panicky mistake can be made. England maintained their poise, Australia switched off on a couple of occasions.
Danny Care scored a try in England's win against Australia
That’s the difference between being a team with one defeat in two years and one on a recent run. It’s one of the reasons New Zealand are so hard to beat; they believe they will win, opponents merely hope they will beat them.
Which brings us to Wales against New Zealand next week. Maybe this will be the Saturday when sixty-plus years of dreaming become a reality, but with the vast difference in the mindset between them, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
Australia have beaten Wales on 13 straight occasions, but the gap between the two nations is not that glaring, it’s pretty much all in the head.
We’ll come onto Scotland’s game against New Zealand later but that’s another match falling into the same category, the mentally tough champ against the hopeful – but no more – challenger. What was the name of that John Lennon song? Mind Games…
2. Other than the difference between the ears (Australia’s four straight defeats was a factor in the Twickenham mind games) the bench was a key component. Maro Itoje came on earlier than expected and was exceptional. He brought energy and expertise to the occasion.
But the star bench cameo came from Danny Care; two clever kicking assists and a fine supporting finish of his own to wrap up the afternoon – that is what Eddie Jones wants from a finisher.
Highlights of England's 30-6 win over Australia at Twickenham
A lot of people I bumped into post match were saying he deserves to start the next game. But that is not the point. It’s not the best XV and the rest, its people playing the parts that fit the needs of the team and their own game.
Care probably will wear the No 9 jersey against Samoa but that doesn’t mean he has ousted Ben Youngs. Two men in the same position but with different roles.
3. Where does this leave Australia? Not in a bad place; this would be my assertion. They have had some good results this year and – from a World Cup perspective – importantly, an improving level of performance.
Eddie knows England was flattered, Michael Cheika knows Australia have closed in on both New Zealand and England this year. They have plenty of time in which to become major players in Japan, 2019.
Sir Clive Woodward picks the England team he'd like to see start against Samoa next week
4. Some outstanding performers from Twickenham. For England, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes to go with the aforementioned. For Australia, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kefu and Marika Koroibete. The former league star has not been rushed into the Wallaby fold and is all the better for it.
5. Scotland missed out on the win but produced a fine performance. Gregor Townsend will be disappointed that a rare chance to beat New Zealand wasn’t taken but he has to be pleased with the shape, the structure and the speed of the Scottish performance.
They have a few knocks ahead of the Australia game, an important match for the winning mentality of both these teams. Fortunately, Stuart Hogg is not one of the walking wounded. The full-back was magnificent.
So often it seems Hogg is portrayed as the face of Scottish rugby outside the country. On Saturday he was one heck of an ambassador. His footwork was fantastic, his kicking excellent and his sheer drive from the back inspiring. Alas, we’ll never know what might have happened had he been full-back in the recent Lions test series.
6. The second best team for large chunks of the first half, New Zealand relied on individual brilliance, soaring skills and a strong scrum to see off Scotland.
Two divine interventions from Sonny Bill Williams, a score of straightforward genius concocted between the centre, Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett and that self-belief. There was the difference between the teams – the good news is that the All Blacks definitely look mortal.
7. Barrett would be my pick for World Player of the Year. He is prone to the odd error but is blessed with genius and an on-field influence greater still than that of the other contenders, excellent as they are.
His tackle on Hogg in the 80th minute was a reminder there is more to him than the flash and frilly.
8. Breakthrough Player of the Year has to be Rieko Ioane. All due respect to his fellow French and Argentine nominees, neither is in his league as a breakthrough player.
He was right up there with Hogg for my man of the match in Edinburgh. He stands alone, peerless, hence the decision not to name the other contenders… there are no other contenders!
9. Having just typed this sentence, I hope World Rugby’s panel don’t make the same mess of the awards as the board did the 2023 World Cup proceedings. In hindsight – and I accept this makes it easy to write – the board should not have come up with a recommendation.
Do the work and hand the findings over to the council without a scoring system. In their defence, World Rugby tried to force through a recommendation in order to avoid the very-late-in-the day, behind-the-scenes dealings that were witnessed.
Bill Beaumont was reduced to a constant reiteration of the word ‘transparency’. Echoes of ‘Strong and stable government’. It was all very sad as France played the political game to great effect while Bill muttered ‘transparency’.
10. South Africa had a small degree of revenge, beating France 18-17. South Africa do not beat too many good teams outside their home country. Luckily for them France are not a good team. Bernard Laporte pulled the strings off the field a lot better than Guy Noves is managing to do so on it.
Elsewhere, Argentina will be grateful for a win against Italy while weakened Wales and Ireland sides edged past Georgia and Fiji respectively. Uncontested scrums in Cardiff because of Leon Brown’s cramp… Georgia’s limitations… it’s not always the beautiful game is it?
Well, that is a bit of a gloomy note on which to finish so how about a well done to Worcester for their first Premiership win of the season against Northampton? Well done Worcester.