Who’s hot and who’s not: Ireland, England, Chile and more in celebratory mood, All Blacks and Wallabies lick their wounds

David Skippers

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Ireland making history: Andy Farrell’s men became the first northern hemisphere side, since the advent of professionalism, to win a Test series in New Zealand after they triumphed over the All Blacks 32-22 in the third Test in Wellington. It was a magnificent performance led by Tadhg Beirne, who made 18 tackles whilst winning several turnovers at the breakdown. Tireless flanker Josh van der Flier was at his brilliant best yet again, notching up 22 tackles and scoring a try in a complete performance. It is a massive day in Ireland‘s rugby history and well deserved after a fantastic tour of New Zealand, with the celebrations in Wellington apparently going on long into the early hours. One imagines it was the same back home.

Chile heading to the World Cup: The South Americans have reached their debut Rugby World Cup after sealing a shock 31-29 win over the USA in Colorado. The Eagles held a slender 22-21 lead from their first leg victory in Santíago last weekend and were up by 20 points in the tie after scoring three tries by the half-hour mark in the second leg. Los Conderos had other ideas, however, and launched a stunning fightback and kept their World Cup hopes alive courtesy of tries from Marcelo Torrealba, Matías Garafulic just before half-time. The USA continued to hold an edge but further tries from Santiago Videla and Matías Dittus narrowed the gap before Videla secured Chile’s victory with a late penalty. They will compete in Pool D at next year’s global showpiece in France alongside England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa.

Courtney Lawes shines as England grind it out: England captain Lawes produced an inspired performance as his team claimed the series with a 21-17 win at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The flank topped the tackle count for his side with an impressive 15 hits in a tireless performance. Australia threatened to come back late in the contest, but ultimately an opportunistic Marcus Smith runaway try made the difference. It was a big win for Eddie Jones, who very much needed this triumph, and he can thank the likes of Lawes, Ellis Genge, Freddie Steward and Jack van Poortvliet for the series win. England really savoured this moment and who can blame them after their recent woes.

Centurion Eben Etzebeth: It was a momentous occasion when the behemoth second-row made his 100th appearance for his country in Saturday’s victory against Wales in his hometown at Cape Town Stadium. What made the 30-year-old’s feat extra special is the fact that he was also celebrating becoming the Springboks’ youngest centurion, beating former speedster Bryan Habana’s record by 191 days. Etzebeth is only the seventh South African to reach the magical 100 cap feat and follows Habana, John Smit, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Percy Montgomery and Jean de Villiers. He also marked the occasion with an excellent showing as the Boks overcame a battling Welsh side 30-14 .

Captain Keith Earls: Although the veteran is in the twilight of his career, it was a great achievement when he captained Ireland’s midweek team during their second encounter against the Maori All Blacks last week. In the build-up to the match, the 34-year-old revealed that it was the first time that he had been named to captain a team as a professional and the last time he skippered a side was when he was a player for the Thomond U14 team! It was such a special occasion for Earls and Ireland as they capped the occasion by picking up a 30-24 victory over the Maori All Blacks. He also spoke incredible well after the match as to what it meant to him. It was a deserved honour for an Irish legend.

Samoa’s Pacific Nations Cup success: Few predicted Samoa to win the Pacific Nations Cup before the tournament began so hats off to the islanders as they finished with three wins out of three. In Round One they began with a 31-26 win over Australia A before the following week it was Tonga who were seen off 34-18. That meant it all came down to a final day clash with Fiji, who had home comforts in Lautoka. That didn’t hinder the Samoans though as they managed to get the job done thanks to a narrow 23-20 success that completed the sweep.

COLD AS ICE!

Disappointing All Blacks: The troubling times in New Zealand rugby continues in the Ian Foster era as they succumbed to a strong Irish side and lost the series 2-1. Further questions about Foster’s job security have dominated the weekend headlines as the All Blacks are in one of the worst performing periods in their history. It does not make for good reading for New Zealand fans with their side in shambles just over a year out from the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. Is change coming and if so, surely the job is made for Crusaders boss Scott Robertson?

Same failings for the Wallabies: Dave Rennie’s Australian side failed to make the most of their numerous opportunities and were guilty of poor decision-making during key moments. As a result, the Wallabies tried to force some of their plays, including going far too laterally at times. A beautiful Tom Wright score was the highlight of their game, but they failed to replicate that effective attacking play in the rest of the clash. There was also the familiar discipline issues which have plagued them throughout the three Tests and it allowed England to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Rennie will be frustrated as the game was theirs for the taking in certain moments, but his players didn’t capitalise.

Ryan Jones’ dementia diagnosis: It is truly heart-breaking to read about another former rugby player suffering with this awful illness and our heart goes out to Jones and those close to him at this time. The Wales legend, who also starred on the 2005 British & Irish Lions, spoke about his fears for the future after his early-onset dementia diagnosis, saying he feels like his “world is falling apart” after he received the news in December 2021. At just 41 years old, it’s especially worrying and hope that Jones and his family get all the support they need.

Eddie Jones comments: Ahead of England’s series decider with Australia, Jones said the number of stoppages are harming the sport’s product and that the game has become too stop-start as referees are being far too pedantic when it comes to high tackles. Although Jones emphasised that officials were not to blame as they’re merely following World Rugby’s guidelines, his comments were irresponsible. What he’s saying is that some incidents should be ignored for the sake of getting a better flow to the game, despite the fact that they are causing head injuries. Yes, the sport needs to be improved and sped up, but it has to be smart about this as we must not sacrifice player safety.

USA’s World Cup struggles: As mentioned in the above Hot section, the USA suffered a setback over the weekend as they lost out to Chile in that huge game for both sides. Ultimately, it’s Chile who head to France for Rugby World Cup 2023 while the Eagles will be left to lick their wounds and regroup ahead of the World Cup’s Final Qualification Tournament, which will be held in November. The rebuilding will begin in earnest as the USA look to bounce back and secure the last spot to next year’s global showpiece. With the country eagerly hoping to increase interest, that would ultimately boost ticket sales ahead of hosting the tournament in 2031. Not featuring in the 2023 event is not something they can contemplate as it will be a body blow to the sport in the nation.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: Great achievements, Eddie Jones’ angry confrontation and Drew Mitchell going all out to settle a bet