The Springboks and All Blacks pull out all the stops in epic battles with their northern-hemisphere rivals in the end-of-year Tests, as if they were competing in a World Cup final every weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
The world champion Boks opened a four-match tour to Europe with a hard-fought 19-16 defeat by No 1-ranked Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, after New Zealand demolished Wales 55-23 at the Principality Stadium.
Both encounters highlighted the titanic north-vs-south duels set to play out over the next three weeks, with the Boks having a chance to rebound in mouthwatering clashes with France, Italy and England.
In his TIMESLive column, Keohane argues that what happens in November has no bearing on what will happen at the Rugby World Cup in 2023, as for a team to call themselves world champions, they need to beat the next best over and over in a calendar year.
“This is my favourite rugby month in a glorious rugby month. November, up north, is better than the World Cup because there are no ‘nothing’ matches,” Keohane writes. “Every one of Saturday and Sunday’s matches could be a World Cup final.
“There isn’t a better month of international rugby than this month, but it means absolutely nothing in the context of who wins the World Cup at the Stade de France in Paris in 2023.
“The World Cup, played once every four years, is a tournament within a tournament … to be the World Cup winners you have to pitch up and produce over six weeks.
“To be the world champion, a team needs to beat the next best over and over in a calendar year [and] rugby has never been stronger because of months like November when the best plays the best over four weeks.”