Five lessons from the past weekend's Test matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Ireland are serious World Cup contenders
The Irish backed up their convincing win against the Boks with a victory against the Wallabies, and fully deserve to be ranked third in the world. They could so easily have beaten the All Blacks too, in November 2013, and have all three southern hemisphere scalps. On that occasion, Ireland blew a 19-0 lead to lose 24-22, and on Saturday, they raced into a 17-0 lead only to fall behind 20-17 late in the first half. However, this time they managed to get back in front and hold off the Wallabies in the final frantic minutes. Joe Schmidt's men have now proved they can close out a tight game against a top team, which will stand them in good stead at next year's World Cup.
Pick players when they're on form
Nizaam Carr has been outstanding all year for the Stormers and Western Province, and on Saturday he finally got the chance to play for the Boks. The flanker came off the bench in the 57th minute with his side leading just 8-6. With his first touch of the ball, he got past Sergio Parisse and Luca Morisi, before offloading in the tackle to Cobus Reinach, who scored a crucial try. In that one passage of play, Carr showed what he brings to the Boks: physicality, great hands and vision. He also showed why coaches should pick players when they are on form, and Heyneke Meyer would be wise to have him in his match 23 for Saturday's Test against Wales in Cardiff.
Wales' bark is still worse than their bite
No team talks a bigger game than Wales, and they were at it again this week with scrumhalf Rhys Webb saying the All Blacks were 'there for the taking'. This despite the fact Wales had not beaten New Zealand since 1953, and had lost 25 out of their last 26 matches against the big three southern hemisphere sides. Webb must have felt his comment was justified when he scored a try to level the scores at 10-10, and when Wales led 16-15 after 69 minutes, but rugby is an 80-minute game and the hosts leaked three late tries to suffer a big defeat. It will be interesting to see whether the Welsh have finally learned their lesson and keep their mouths shut ahead of the Bok Test.
The All Blacks are the world's best conditioned team
New Zealand's superior fitness was evident again during those last 10 minutes in Cardiff, when they went from trailing by a point to winning by 18. It's not the first time they've done it either, having come from behind against the Boks at Ellis Park and Ireland in Dublin last year, and against the Wallabies in Brisbane this year. They also grew stronger as this year's match against the Boks at Ellis Park progressed, even though Meyer insisted his team had worked on their fitness.
England look better with George Ford at flyhalf
Ford impressed in his first start for England, against Samoa at Twickenham, kicking three penalties and two conversions. It was the 21-year-old's perfectly judged cross-kick that resulted in a try for Mike Brown, and he also did well with ball in hand, bursting through a gap between the Samoa centres on one occasion after dummying in midfield. England coach Stuart Lancaster showed his faith in Ford when he replaced Owen Farrell, who had been moved from 10 to 12 for this match, with Billy Twelvetrees in the 66th minute and kept his new flyhalf on the field.
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