Rugby World Cup cycle begins for England, Scotland & Wales

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Autumn Internationals 2022 begins in October and begins the countdown to RWC France.

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It’s been an exciting three weeks of international rugby union with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales touring the southern hemisphere.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland was the biggest talking point as they triumphed 2-1 in their series against the All Blacks from a 1-0 deficit with their 32-22 third Test win in Wellington.

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England also received plenty of praise, also trailing 1-0 and winning their series in Australia 2-1.

Unfortunately, Wales and Scotland were unable to continue the success of their six nations, losing their respective series 2-1 to South Africa and Argentina.

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The past three weeks have provided food for thought for fans, pundits and members of their national teams as international rugby officially enters the ‘World Cup Cycle’.

If Autumn Internationals 2022 takes place in October, it will be less than a year before the first ball is shot at RWC 2023 in France.

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This means that if either nation is planning to make drastic changes to things like their coaching setup, captaincy or tactics, now really is the time to do it – giving them a full year to prepare for the main event.

Ireland and England, Ireland in particular, will be buoyed up by their summer series wins and head into the autumn with plenty of momentum, but it’s a different story for Wales and Scotland.

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The Welshman, despite huge chances, performed well to push the first Test against South Africa to the final kick of the game before winning the second Test – albeit against a heavily rotated Springboks side.

As for Scotland, they were on course for a series win but gave up a 15-point lead as Argentina won the final Red-clock Test thanks to a try from Emiliano Boffelli.

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Wales have an opportunity to see the positives as Wayne Pivac continues to shape the squad in his image after replacing the hugely successful Warren Gatland in 2019.

There have certainly been moments of concern, most notably Italy’s Six Nations win in Cardiff earlier this year, but overall it doesn’t feel like the time to hit the panic button.

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Meanwhile, Scotland appear to be at sea following their series defeat. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is becoming an alarming hallmark of Gregor Townsend’s blunder, and the former Glasgow Warriors manager has plenty to do – provided he’s trusted as the man to do it.

Having shown confidence in Townsend since 2017, SRU is unlikely to see now as the ideal time for a replacement, but stranger things have been happening and calls from Scottish fans are getting louder and more consistent.

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For now, Townsend has to focus mainly on picking a captain to lead them into the World Cup cycle, which he has confirmed is something he is considering.

England’s series win in Australia was promising but there were many areas Eddie Jones needs to address if they are to be seen as serious contenders in September 2023.

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Poor discipline has dogged them for the better part of a year, and this last tour certainly had its fair share of individual lows.

However, it will be just as important to focus on the positives rather than the negatives and they have plenty of testing ahead of the World Cup to iron out the individual flaws.

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As for Ireland, the whole nation is pretty much on cloud nine after Andy Farrell produced their incredible run of wins in New Zealand.

Beating the All Blacks not once, but twice in their own patch is a sensational feat and they did it in style, quite simply outperforming their opponents in the second and third Tests.

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They are now being debated as serious contenders for winning next year’s Webb Ellis Cup and if they can maintain that level of excellence and keep their key players fit you wouldn’t bet against them.

At the moment though, it’s best not to get too far ahead as there’s not only the Autumn Internationals between us and the World Cup, but also the 2023 Six Nations and a whole domestic rugby season.

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It will be interesting to see again where all four nations are at the end of November 2022, March 2023 and then September 2023 when the flagship event finally begins.

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