The June Tests have been a welcome break from the Super competition.
That’s not to say that Super rugby isn’t good but it’s always nice to see some quality international tests, and they have been quality tests. All three test series have been played in an attacking fashion with plenty of tries and nail-biting finishes, largely due to the difference in approach, style and aggression by the northern hemisphere teams. Look at the second test of each respective series, and you’ll see a source of great concern for SANZAR, and particularly the Wallabies.
In recent seasons northern hemisphere teams would arrive with a B squad and get monstered in one or two forgettable matches against a SANZAR team before slinking back to Great Britain. John O’Neil, rightfully so, criticised these tours as pointless. That has changed this year – the home nations bringing full strength sides for three match tours. It’s the perfect opportunity for the six nation teams to learn from the world’s best and adapt their games to match, and that’s exactly what they have been doing. After Ireland’s first match against New Zealand no one expected that Dan Carter would need to slot a drop goal in the 80th minute to win. The same goes for the Wallabies against Wales, while South Africa had only a slightly easier victory against England. No one would be surprised if it’s a northern hemisphere clean sweep next week.
Aside from England in 2002/3, SANZAR has dominated world rugby in the professional era. This is coming to an end, as the north is given increased opportunities against the world’s best. All three touring sides – England, Wales and Ireland – are playing high-tempo aggressive football. At present SANZAR may dominate but the more the north imitate the south the quicker this dominance will end.
While this competition and these test series are nothing but great for world rugby they have come at the worst possible time for the Wallabies. Next year the British and Irish Lions will tour Australia for a three test series. They will be the most prepared and talented team in years to tour and the Wallabies will have a fight on their hand if they want to win.