Player welfare, international calendar alignment, and Neo-Colonial club rugby. These issues are of serious import and deserve careful attention. To obsess over these issues would suck the fun out of each and every international test this month. Not today, then. Here are single-issue litmus test questions for November.
England – Haskell has been consigned to Instagram where he belongs, where he is perhaps moving onto issues such as should adults ride scooters to stay fit? We want to see one game (at least) of Ford-Farrell-Slade, just to see what happens. With front-foot ball, we anticipate such joyful abandon that the English rugby press will immediately wet themselves in adoration. It is not happening versus Pumas, so will the stars align for Australia?
Wales – We already have a semi-unleashed Gatland. We want Wales to lean into expansive rugby. Owen Williams gets his chance outside Biggar this weekend. The staid approach of years past would mean losses to all SANZAR sides, so what do they have to lose?
Ireland – Zebo is gone and Earls is hurt. Is it Christmas? Ireland need to play new people in the back three. They need truly test-calibre players. Kearney sadly is starting versus the Boks. Carbery should get time at 15 as well as at 10. The door is wide open for Stockdale.
Scotland – Simple. Can Scotland beat Australia again?
France – God is dead. Existentialism reigns. Can France find a 10 to conjure magic with Serin? Panache, please.
Italy – Will there be an O’Shea bump? Chatter has been positive. Wins probably matter less than quality of performances in November. Come the Six Nations, Italy need to compete.
Argentina – Can the Pumas return to the form that blew Ireland away in 2015? International rugby is significantly better with a form side of hunky Argentines.
Australia – Cheika’s men need to return to a place that sees them as favored against top Northern sides. Do they have credible alternatives to Genia and Foley? Seems like they need some badly.
New Zealand – Nothing. Even Barrett’s dodgy kicking seems solid. I find it interesting that we begrudge them their magnificence. Watch and enjoy.
South Africa – After last year’s trip north, they can only do better. The Boks are showing positive signs, but they also seem fragile. For us, the question comes down to their backline. Would they consider a Jantges-Pollard combo and get their outside backs into space?