| Tavita |
SIR Arthur Conon Doyle once had a go at capturing the spirit of Autumn.
“Clouds of insects dance and buzz in the golden autumn light, and the air is full of the piping of the song-birds. Long, glinting dragonflies shoot across the path, or hang tremulous with gauzy wings and gleaming bodies.”
Don’t yer believe it, mate.
The Autumn Series starts today. Six mighty tests in a night. The sports watchers spirit of Autumn. History to dream about. Games to keep us wide awake.
The Cup of the World is on next year and this is its Great Big Saucer.
ITALY vs. SAMOA
The weakest of the European Nations against the strongest Pacific Island side. Blue versus blue.
Almost twenty years of history between them and a lot of big wins to the island boys.
42-18 in the very first match in 2000 and 43-24, the following year but slowly getting closer with a hard-fought 15-0 in June this year.
And today’s encounter should be a scorcher. Big, bad and brutal one minute. Then, fast, fancy and furious the next.
FRANCE vs. FIJI
On paper, the only certainty… according to history.
Eight games since fifty years ago at Stade Combes in Paris when France won 21-3 and. since then, seven more fixtures and seven more wins to the cockerels, sometimes a bit on the massive side, as big as a Fijian winger. 61-18 in 2003 and 77-10 in 2001
But the Fijians got it down to 12-34 the last time they met and racked up over a hundred points in a World Cup qualifying game this year. Admittedly against the Cook Islands but all the same looking fit enough to last out a game which has always been their weak point. So, maybe a little less certain today.
SCOTLAND vs. ARGENTINA
They first met forty five years ago in unofficial tests but, in the twelve games played since the first one recognized by both sides as full tests in 1990, the Pumas have come out top in nine.
Scotland are fighting back, though, now. They’re desperately trying to justify their first tier status.
In the game at Cordoba earlier this year, they came out 21-19 winners and, generally, it’s only been ten so points between them.
So, this one could be the thriller of the day.
It also likely to be the biggest, in terms of props and locks and fairly enormous humans.
Like Scottish lock, Jim Hamilton, 19st. 9 and 6’8”.
WALES vs. AUSTRALIA
Although Wales began with over seventy years of supremacy, history shows Australia with well over twice the number of wins in more recent times, apart from the mighty 29-29 draw in 2006 and a loss in 2008.
The biggest advantage for Wales, as always, though, is playing at home.
The only advantage Australia has, is being the better side.
This should make it another top class test in a tense and unpredictable day.
Both will be hoping to end the year in the sort of form that got them to World Cup semi-finals in 1987 and 2011.
ENGLAND vs. NEW ZEALAND
The first of the two big biggies on a day when there isn’t a single write-off game. Many predict a warm-up for next year’s World Cup Final.
Two years ago, England got a rare win with a 38-21 win at Twickenham, their largest ever victory over the All Blacks and sweet revenge for the 64-22 thrashing they got by New Zealand in Carrisbrook in 1998.
But a less than full-strength All Black team racked up over seventy points against the USA last week, and their first choice squad should dispose of All Whites.
If they don’t, the Lord of Godzone will surely cringe and Duke of Twickers will swallow his whinge.
IRELAND vs. SOUTH AFRICA
The late night fixture, or the early morning out here.
Ancient history points to a win for the Boks.
But, although Ireland have only had one draw and four wins in the twenty one games since 1906, three of those wins have come in their five most recent games, each one at home.
And each of the last two Springbok wins has been desperately close.
So, when evening comes up there in the north, the best of the night could be still to come.
And, in each of the six great games on show, the real live spirit of Autumn shines.“Packs of elephants stomp and heave in a floodlit night of rugby and the air is full of the tooting of refs. Long glinting sixteen stone wingers hammer across the fullbacks and twenty stone props with cauliflower ears hang round the gleaming necks of tremulous half backs.”Sir Arthur didn’t know nothing, mate. He should have stuck to Sherlock Holmes!