Credit: James Coleman via Unsplash

A reflection on the Autumn Nations Series

By Natasha Coyle

Natasha Coyle looks back at this autumn’s home nations rugby matches.

Scotland, England, and Wales all hosted matches against teams from the southern hemisphere in this year’s Men’s Autumn Nations Series. The performances from the three UK nations have caused stirs within public opinion as to whether head coaches are selecting the right players for their side or if in fact, they are suitable as head coaches as all three sides look towards the 2023 World Cup held in France. Whilst all three home nations suffered one-point defeats during their campaigns, there have certainly been moments when fans of each home side have been disappointed in their team’s performances. That’s not to say that each side was without success, but this series has definitely unearthed some series concerns, especially within the Welsh and English camps. 

Wales: Only one win throughout the entire series against Argentina with a 20–13 scoreline, shows that there has been turmoil within the Welsh camp. Wales lost to Georgia 12–13 and the Georgians obtained a historic victory over the home side at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, which was won by a late penalty by the visitors. Wales’s losses definitely raised questions as to what is going wrong. 

The Welsh national squad is chosen based on two main rules that many have described as controversial. A player can only represent Wales if they are playing in a club in one of the four Welsh regions. Or, if a player is representing a club outside of Wales, they must have 60+ international caps to continue representing their country. However, this rule has been bent for some up-and-coming rising stars, including Gloucester’s Louis Rees-Zammit, and Leicester Tiger’s flanker Tommy Reffell. Zammit was urged by head coach, Wayne Pivac, during the 2022 Six Nations campaign to play for a Welsh club rather than the Cherry and Whites. 

Dan Biggar, Welsh fly-half who holds 102 caps for Wales and 3 caps for the British and Irish Lions, has called for the rules surrounding Welsh selection to be scrapped. Biggar has commented on how playing away from home has helped him to improve and develop his game. Biggar has left his English club, Northampton Saints, halfway through the 2022/23 season with immediate effect to join Toulon. The French teams do not have any salary caps while England does. But Welsh and Scottish club rugby also do not have salary caps. Other players from the home nations have also made the move to French clubs, including Scotland’s fly-half, Finn Russell who currently represents Racing 92. 

England has a similar rule to Wales when it comes to their international selection: a player can’t wear the red rose if they’re not playing in the English league. This raises the dangers of keeping players confined to their home nation when moving to a club away from home may best nurture their style of play and help to develop them as a player. 

Wales needed their home fixtures during this series for a morale boost leading up to next year’s World Cup, but the dragons faced disappointment. 

England: Similarly to Wales, England does not hold a fantastic record coming out of this Autumn Nations Series. Argentina denied England of their first win at Twickenham with a 29–30 score line in their first fixture. But England’s draw against New Zealand after chasing them from 3–17 down at half-time to walk away with a 25–25 draw shows the team’s strength and determination not to be put away by their opponents. 

Yet, teams don’t consistently win games by chasing them. This is the situation the English club London Irish finds themselves in. Irish are currently at the bottom of the table in the English Premiership, despite clawing many losing bonus points from their oppositions in their most recent matches. Irish find themselves chasing games after failing to execute basic set pieces that ultimately cost them the win. 

A thumping win over Japan boosted morale after the Argentina game going into the match against the All Blacks, but against South Africa, England was once again in disarray against their dominant opponents. 

Selection choices seem to be all over the place. With two major playmakers of Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith playing at 12 and 10 respectively, may not be the best combination for England. The depth of talent in the backline is significant but with the injury-prone Manu Tuilagi playing alongside Henry Slade (who was originally left out of the English squad) and Guy Porter, playing styles don’t seem to be clicking. 

The peak that England reached at the last World Cup seems in the distant past from where they currently find themselves. 

Although England came into the series beating Australia 2–1 in their 2022 summer tour down under, England is not playing at their best. Their poor 2022 Six Nations performance has also placed head coach, Eddie Jones, under fire. Like Pivac, he is also facing review before the next World Cup. However, Jones has a fantastic World Cup track record and is frankly unphased by public opinion. Yet, Jones seems to take all the blame when his side loses. 

This series has been a shock and wake-up call for England in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup. 

Scotland: With a disappointing start to the series losing to Australia 15–16 at Murrayfield due to fly-half Blair Kinghorn missing a late vital kick that cost them the match, public disappointment resurfaced the discussion surrounding Gregor Townsend’s controversial choice to exclude Finn Russell from the squad. 

But comfortable wins over Fiji and Argentina reflected the growing confidence and depth in the Scottish squad, with a drive to bounce back after their defeat against the Wallabies. Russell returned for their fixture against the All Blacks, despite his original exclusion, although this was to no avail and Scotland was defeated by New Zealand. 

Townsend has discussed how his selections are about rewarding players who are delivering for their club. But in the case of Kinghorn who is delivering for his club side, Edinburgh, he is failing to do so for his country by missing crucial kicks in certain fixtures. Exeter Chiefs’ full-back Stuart Hogg has been stripped of the Scottish captaincy, and both he and fellow Lions player Russell have both broken protocols surrounding drinking during tournaments, which occurred during the 2022 Six Nations and caused both players to be originally omitted from the Autumn Nations squad. 

Townsend is rewarding deserving players and omitting those who transgress protocols during the tournament season, regardless of how good, or how much of a playmaker an individual player is. Townsend was clearly not afraid to shake up the structure of his squad. 

From the outside looking in, Scotland is looking stronger than they have before. 


Scotland has come out of the Autumn Nations Series as the most successful of the three nations with two wins and two losses. Townsend is clearly asserting his authority over the Scottish squad and reinforcing positive behaviours on and off the field through his selection choices. Scotland is looking stable with a good level of depth to their squad. 

England has a great wealth of players to choose from, but on the international stage, the magic doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment, or not consistently. It’s understandable that Jones is wanting to nurture young, up-and-coming talent who are making huge contributions at their clubs but the mix of styles that the current squad has doesn’t appear to be clicking. England has a wealth of confident players but their confidence as a team is lacking.

Wales is in equal disarray with Welsh players considering quitting the Welsh game and taking their talents elsewhere. With England and Wales holding similar rules regarding selection, it raises questions as to whether those rules should change and whether nations should not lock their players into playing for clubs at home. 


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