Summer Internationals conclude as England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland enter Rugby World Cup 2023 cycle

The 2022 Autumn Internationals will get underway in October and begin the countdown to the RWC in France.

It’s been a thrilling three weeks of international rugby union with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on tour in the Southern Hemisphere.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland were the biggest talking point as they came from 1-0 down in their series against the All Blacks to triumph 2-1 with their 32-22 third test win in Wellington.

Also taking the plaudits were England who also came from 1-0 down to win their series in Australia 2-1.

Unfortunately, Wales and Scotland were unable to continue the success of their fellow Six Nations sides and lost their respective series 2-1 to South Africa and Argentina.

The past three weeks have provided plenty of food for thought for fans, pundits and those inside the ranks of their national sides as international rugby officially enters the “World Cup cycle”.

When the 2022 Autumn Internationals role around in October it will be less than one year before the first ball is kicked at the 2023 RWC in France.

That means that if any of the nations are planning on making any drastic changes to things such as their coaching set up, captaincy or tactics then now really is the time to do it - giving them a full year to prepare for the main event.

Ireland and England, particularly Ireland, will be buoyed by their summer series wins and will have plenty of momentum going into the Autumn but it’s a different story for Wales and Scotland.

The Welsh put in a good showing against tremendous odds to push the first test against South Africa right to the last 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 victory but let a 15 point lead slip away as Argentina won the final test with the clock in the red courtesy of an Emiliano Boffelli try.

Wales have the opportunity to look at the positives as Wayne Pivac continues to shape the squad in his image having taken over from the hugely successful Warren Gatland in 2019.

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

Meanwhile, Scotland seem to be all at sea following their series loss. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is becoming an alarming hallmark of the Gregor Townsend error and the former Glasgow Warriors coach has a lot of work to do - assuming he is trusted as the man to do it.

Having shown faith in Townsend since 2017, it’s unlikely the SRU would see now as the ideal time for a replacement but stranger things have happened and the calls from the Scottish supporters are getting louder and more consistent.

For now, Townsend’s main focus needs to be on choosing a captain to lead them into the World Cup cycle, something he has confirmed he is deliberating on.

England’s series win in Australia was promising but there were plenty of areas that Eddie Jones will need to address if they are going to be seen as serious contenders come September 2023.

Poor discipline has dogged them for the best part of a year and this most recent tour certainly had its fair share of individual low points.

However, focusing on the positives rather than the negative will be equally as important and they have plenty of tests between now and the World Cup to iron out the individual errors.

As for Ireland, the whole nation is sitting pretty on Cloud Nine after Andy Farrell masterminded their incredible series win in New Zealand.

Beating the All Blacks not once but twice on their own patch is a sensational achievement and they did it in style by, quite simply, out performing their opponents over the second and third tests.

They are now being discussed as serious contenders to lift the Webb Ellis cup next year and, if they can keep up this level of excellence and keep their key players fit, you wouldn’t bet against them.

For now it’s best not to get too far ahead though, there is not only the Autumn Internationals but the 2023 Six Nations and an entire domestic rugby season between us and the World Cup.

It will be interesting to revisit where all four nations are at the end of November 2022, March 2023 and then in September 2023 as the showpiece event finally gets underway.