‘Return of the north’

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has highlighted the increasing strength of the northern hemisphere's international teams following November's end-of-year Tests.

In an impressive sequence of recent results, England have extended their winning sequence to 13 games, while Ireland secured a first-ever win over the All Blacks, and overcame Australia last weekend.

Italy also recorded a first-ever win over the Springboks, with Scotland and Wales clinching victories over Argentina last month.

In the latest world rankings, although the All Blacks still dominate the summit, England, Ireland and Wales are all in the top five.

England will clash with Australia in one final fixture this Saturday, and in a telephone interview with AFP, Gosper said it was very healthy to have such a 'competitive game'.

'I think you've seen the return of the north over these past few weeks. You've had some surprises with Italy beating South Africa and the Ireland-All Blacks game [in Chicago], while England are still undefeated under Eddie Jones. The sport is in great shape.'

Meanwhile, World Rugby announced their financial results for 2015, with revenue of nearly £345-million generated mainly on the back of the 2015 World Cup. Some £245.8-million of that is now expected to be put back into the game in the next four-year cycle to 2020.

Photo: Gabriele Metinti/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis