The Autumn Internationals, rugby union's annual break for international sides to tour the globe, provided the usual surprises and entertainment in 2012 (Image | Getty)

The Autumn Internationals, rugby union’s annual break for international sides to tour the globe, provided the usual surprises and entertainment in 2012. (Image | Getty)

Another year, another November packed with international rugby action.

Ranging from high-profile clashes between the world’s best, to a second-tier mini tournament held in North Wales and short tours for minor nations, it was hard at times to keep track of all the action.

Here are all the results, the fallout from the Autumn Internationals and the consequences for the future.

The Northern Hemisphere

Kicking off with an impressive 54-12 win against Fiji, England slumped to mediocre defeats against South Africa and Australia. This run was turned on its head in the most spectacular way possible, with a jaw-dropping 38-21 victory over a supposedly unbeatable New Zealand side.

Fly-half Owen Farrell looks to be a bright prospect for the future, making a number of kicks under pressure, while Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi impressed with four tries in as many matches.

Ireland also had cause to celebrate. Following a narrow defeat to the Springboks, a representative XV routed Fiji 53-0 before the full side ran in seven tries against Argentina in Dublin. In Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy, the Irish have found attacking flair to complement their power up front. Combined with the experience and finishing of Tommy Bowe, this young side could become a serious threat. Number 8 Jamie Heaslip also made a promising start as captain.

Distinctly uninspiring in defeats to Argentina and Samoa, Wales had a dismal showing. The return of head coach Warren Gatland from British and Irish Lions duty seemed to re-ignite some of the spark that saw the side complete a 6 Nations grand slam this year, but it was not enough to prevent further losses to New Zealand and Australia. Young prop Aaron Jarvis and mercurial flanker Justin Tipruic were the only players who truly impressed in a team that appears to have lost its creativity underneath a pile of muscle.

Scotland looked even less impressive than the Welsh, conceding 51 points against the All Blacks and losing to a Springbok side that barely entered second gear before suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Tonga. This run of poor form led to the resignation of head coach Andy Robinson at the end of the series. Powerful Dutch-born winger Tim Visser claimed a brace of tries against the Kiwis, but couldn’t lift his team out of the doldrums.

Frédéric Michalak might have believed his international career was over - until this autumn's impressive comeback performances (Image | Reuters)

Frédéric Michalak might have believed his international career was over – until this autumn’s impressive comeback performances. (Image | Reuters)

France were quietly professional, getting the job done with none of the drama of the home nations. A hugely impressive 33-6 victory over the Wallabies was backed up with wins against Argentina and Samoa.

Fly-half Frédéric Michalak has spent a few years in the wilderness but may have cemented his place in the starting XV after a solid goal-kicking performance. Wesley Fofana followed up on his strong 6 Nations debut with a try against Australia.

Italy proved they are no longer the whipping post of northern hemisphere rugby, giving both New Zealand and Australia a run for their money and sealing victory over Tonga. In fly-half Luciano Orquera, the Azzuri may well have found a long-term goal kicker, an issue which has plagued them since the retirement of Diego Dominguez in 2003.

The Southern Hemisphere

Australia turned around disappointment in Paris with powerful performances against England, Italy and Wales. It was far from classic Wallabies rugby, but it got the job done. Fullback Kurtley Beale played well out of position at fly-half, while flying winger Nick Cummins could be one to watch over the next few years. Second row and captain Nathan Sharpe bowed out in style, taking (and missing) an overtime kick at goal in a match that had already been won against Wales.

South Africa had a quietly assured showing as the only southern hemisphere nation to remain undefeated on tour. Credit must go to the forwards, who did not lose a single lineout on their own throw thanks to the accuracy of hooker Adriaan Strauss and the presence of giant lock Eben Etzebeth. Fly-half Patrick Lambie also put in a confident display in front of goal.

After an historic victory over Wales in Cardiff, Argentina were forced to face reality, suffering significant defeats to France and Ireland. Winger Juan Imhoff proved to be a fiery talent, while Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe captained the side brilliantly against the Welsh.

The all-conquering All Blacks were truly outplayed by England, but this did not stop them from steamrolling past their other opponents in dominant fashion. The selection nightmare in the back line looks to have been resolved, while new faces Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick should help to supplement the pack in future.

The Pacific Island nations showed that they are more than deserving of a place among the sport’s elite.

Beating Scotland was something of a cause for celebration for Tonga, who had an otherwise mixed autumn (Image | PA)

Beating Scotland was something of a cause for celebration for Tonga, who had an otherwise mixed autumn. (Image | PA)

Samoa’s most high-profile scalp was that of Wales, but they also trounced Canada 42-12 and pushed France to the very end, having led for much of the match. Pisi brothers George and Tusi showed versatility and strength in the back line, David Lemi led by example as captain and burly prop Census Johnston’s exquisite kick through the French defensive line to set up a try for Lemi was one of the standout moments of the entire series.

Not to be outdone, Tonga enjoyed their fair share of success, seeing off the USA before that famous win in Aberdeen. Fetu’u Vainikolo’s try from deep within his own half against Scotland was classic Islander rugby, the game in its purest form.

Fiji were not as successful against first-tier sides, but did record a win over Georgia. With the exception of captain Deacon Manu, the squad lacks experience, and so this could be seen as the start of a rebuilding process.

The best of the rest

Elsewhere in the world, emerging nations were allowed to show their potential thanks to an expanded calendar starting this year:

  • Japan played their first matches on Romanian and Georgian soil and won on both occasions, the latter thanks to a last-minute drop goal from Kosei Ono. They also ran in six tries against a French Barbarians side, but ultimately lost 65-41.
  • Canada and the USA both recorded victories over Russia, while the Eagles put in an impressive display to beat Romania 34-3. The Russians had a victory of their own to celebrate, albeit against Oxford University.
  • Portugal enjoyed a successful tour of South America, beating Uruguay and Chile.
  • Spain took part in a “Namibian Tri Nations” series with Namibia and Zimbabwe and registered two wins in two games in Windhoek, pushing them up to 18th in the world rankings.
Young Wasps lock Joe Launchbury certainly made a positive impression on Tim - and on the England coaching staff (Image | Getty)

Young Wasps lock Joe Launchbury certainly made a positive impression on Tim – and on the England coaching staff. (Image | Getty)

Team of the series

  1. Cian Healey (IRE)
  2. Adriaan Strauss (RSA)
  3. Ben Alexander (AUS)
  4. Joe Launchbury (ENG)
  5. Eben Etzebeth (RSA)
  6. Liam Messam (NZL)
  7. Michael Hooper (AUS)
  8. Louis Picamoles (FRA)
  9. Nick Phipps (AUS)
  10. Frédéric Michalak (FRA)
  11. Craig Gilroy (IRE)
  12. Ma’a Nonu (NZL)
  13. Manu Tuilagi (ENG)
  14. Fetu’u Vainikolo (TON)
  15. Israel Dagg (NZL)

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