Autumn Nations Cup report card – Who should be happy?

International rugby is finished for 2020 and the status quo has been much changed since the 2019 Rugby World Cup concluded.

England have managed to stay on top, having won the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup but are now going toe-to-toe with France in the fight for European supremacy.

The rest have had a less successful year but there are certainly varying degrees of happiness within the national teams regarding their recent performances.

Below are the rankings of the Six Nations teams based on how happy each side should be regarding their results in the last six weeks.

6. Wales

2020 has been a year to forget for the Welsh, who have struggled to find form under new head coach Wayne Pivac.

Wales have dropped from 1st to 9th in the World Rugby Rankings in the space of 15 months and look a far cry from the team that made it to the World Cup semi-finals.

Pivac’s men made a stuttering start to the Six Nations campaign back in February and March and thing’s only got worse when play resumed in the autumn.

Wales lost four and won two of their six matches in the autumn campaign, a miserable return seeing as those wins came against Georgia and Italy.

5. Italy

The Italians have improved slightly since the start of the year, putting in decent performances against Wales and Scotland in recent weeks.

However, the Azzuri failed to win any of their five encounters this autumn (not including their walkover against Fiji) despite showing some signs of promise.

Italy do look more dangerous in attack with 20-year-old Paolo Garbisi at fly-half but still struggle to stay competitive in the last 20 minutes of matches against tier one opposition.

Head coach Franco Smith can take some positives from the last six weeks but will still more than likely claim the wooden spoon in the upcoming Six Nations.

4. Scotland

The Scots will be happy to have defeated Wales but that win reflects on the sorry state of the Welsh more than anything.

Gregor Townsend won’t be displeased with his side’s performances, especially considering they lost their top two fly-halves to injury, but there are no obvious signs of improvement.

A victory against Ireland looked very possible in the last round of the Autumn Nations Cup but a serious lapse in concentration in the second-half resulted in a comfortable win for the Irish.

Captain Stuart Hogg may insist that his team are close to achieving something special, but getting their hands on the Six Nations trophy still looks highly unlikely.

3. Ireland

Andy Farrell’s men went neither forwards or backwards in the last six weeks, proving beyond doubt that they’re the third best team in Europe.

While beating the likes of England and France at home is no easy feat, Ireland never really looked like they had the potential to beat either side.

The team is largely the same one that clinched a Grand Slam and beat the All Blacks in 2018 but are a long way off those lofty heights.

While injuries have had an effect, the Irish are seriously struggling to break down the defences of top teams and have been for a while.

2. England

Despite getting their hands on both pieces of silverware on offer this year England are still suffering from a lack of consistency.

Eddie Jones’ men are arguably the best team in the world when they’re playing at their best but never seem to beat their opposition by as much as they should.

The 2019 World Cup finalists were expected to steamroll the second-string France side in the Autumn Nations Cup final, but only won thanks to a missed knock-on in the build-up to their sole try.

Everyone knows how devastating this English side can be but they are yet to replicate the form that saw them smash New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final.

1. France

The surprise package of 2020, Les Bleus have gotten back to their brilliant best under the tutelage of Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards.

Young stars Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont look capable of leading their country to great success for many years to come and are the in-form 9-10 pairing in the world right now.

France can still play pretty well without the Toulouse duo however, as seen by the second-string French side that came so close to beating England in London.

While Les Bleus are brilliant in attack, special credit must go to defence coach Edwards who has completely transformed the team in defence.

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