England win, France impress, Lions on the horizon: What did an autumn of rugby teach us?

Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell landed the the winning penalty in extra time in England's golden-point win over France

England are the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup champions, France are looking to the future and there is a Lions tour on the horizon.

But have we learned from an extended showing of autumnal rugby?

Former England internationals Ugo Monye and Danny Care were joined by ex-Scotland flanker John Barclay on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast to discuss just that.

Read their thoughts below and listen to what they had to say by clicking here.

England have to evolve in attack

Eddie Jones' side scored a last-minute try to take the Autumn Nations Cup final against an inexperienced France to extra time before Owen Farrell kicked the decisive penalty.

But England, beaten by South Africa in last year's World Cup final, have been criticised for some conservative performances and an emphasis on using a kicking game.

Monye: "If this team are to win the World Cup they have to evolve their game in attack. Do you have the game to chase the game?

"England aren't going to be on top in every game they play from now to 2023. If they are to be the number one team in the world, they need to show more in their attack.

"If their attack could match their defence, this team won't be beaten. At the moment they leave the doors open for teams to get at them. It's not about being the best in the northern hemisphere, it is about beating New Zealand, beating South Africa."

Care: "When you are winning games every week and building momentum, it's because of the nuts and bolts of their game - their set-piece, brutal defence and kicking game - you probably take things like finishing four on threes for granted a little bit.

"They probably train a similar way, exactly how they play - kick chasing, waiting for errors, and they probably haven't spent an awful lot of time developing their attacking game. They are suffering almost from their own success, beating teams without having to do an awful lot."

France have some serious talent

Brice Dulin scores
France were unable to select their leading 35 players - but still pushed England all the way on Sunday

A France side deprived of a host of first-choice stars almost pulled off a shock win over England at Twickenham, despite the visitors' side containing just 68 caps to the hosts' 772.

Monye: "It was a brilliant showing. Passion and emotion, that's what you get with French rugby. They have evolved into a team that not just relies upon passion and emotion but a tactical awareness.

"France had 35 players missing. If you take the best 35 players away from England, and we have the biggest player pool in the world, I am not convinced we would do well against many Tier One nations."

Care: "It is an incredibly exciting time to be a French rugby supporter, and I think that's because of three things: They have got some unbelievable talent. The coaching - you can see it in the performance, you can see the edge Shaun Edwards has brought. And most importantly, their mindset.

"I think Edwards and Fabien Galthie have played a massive part in that. They are making better decisions on the ball, still giving away a few too many penalties but not the stupid stuff. When you get the mindset right and everyone is on the same page, then the talent can really flourish."

Scotland can't play the power game

Ireland pipped Scotland to finish third in the Autumn Nations Cup

Scotland finished fourth in the Autumn Nations Cup after a 31-16 defeat by Ireland.

They were left to rue Duncan Taylor's 31st-minute yellow card, having controlled the opening half-hour in Dublin.

Barclay: "I thought at the weekend, the first 30 minutes was some of the most exciting rugby I have seen Scotland play in a year, they certainly looked like they had gone back from the other extreme of playing pragmatic rugby. But a sin-bin, and the wheels came off.

"That is the way they need to be playing the game. They looked after the ball really well, their contact skills, they played a really fast game but kicked really well and kicked to compete.

"The style they cannot play is the style they played against France, just kick the ball and try and play a power game. Scotland don't have the same power game. Scotland have gone from one extreme to the other.

"There is a bit of learning to be done, but their discipline is the worst in the Autumn Nations Cup and you can't win too many Test matches like that."

Who makes the Lions back-row?

Taulupe Faletau has played 73 internationals for Wales and three Tests for the British and Irish Lions
Taulupe Faletau has played 73 internationals for Wales and three Tests for the British and Irish Lions

The British and Irish Lions travel to South Africa in 2021 to take on the world champions in a three-Test series, with head coach Warren Gatland facing a decision over who starts in the back-row.

Barclay: "I'd pick Tom Curry at seven, Billy Vunipola at eight and then Taulupe Faletau at six. I don't know if you will get much on the floor - I think the rules will change again, it has gone too far the other way and the way South Africa play, you are not going to get much ball the way they steam into things.

"You look at the way Curry has played, for me one of the form players in the world right now. Taulupe Faletau at the weekend was immense, and Vunipola carries the ball out. It's fun, he needs to be in the team."

Care: "I think you need a Vunipola and a Faletau because you are going to need to combat their size with two of your own."

Barclay: "It depends if you go power on power, I don't think anyone can match South Africa for power. Do you try and beat them at their own game or try and play a faster brand of rugby?

"Someone like Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie are definitely in with a shout. Scotland have to play very well in the Six Nations to get guys on the Lions tour. If Hamish Watson was playing in a team that was more successful over the years, people would be talking about him as almost guaranteed."

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