Team Of The Month In Autumn Nations Series. The world’s greatest teams were all in action over the last five weekends, with Ireland and France maintaining their top ranks with three wins from three.
At the other end of the spectrum, Wales and England endured a miserable November, while the rest can take some positives as the 2023 Rugby World Cup draws ever closer.
Today we are focusing on the individual performances of players who stood out for their respective countries in this Autumn Nations Series, as the best of north and south met for one final time before next year’s World Cup.
James Slipper (Australia), Malcolm Marx (South Africa) and Frans Malherbe (South Africa)
Wallabies captain James Slipper was tireless in his efforts for his country in the past month, as he played almost the full 80 in three titanic struggles against Scotland, France and Ireland and truly led from the front.
While Malcolm Marx often doesn’t start for South Africa, he is undoubtedly one of their key players and made a significant impact whether he started or was sprung from the bench.
Frans Malherbe got plenty of praise for demolishing the England scrum, and he was also very solid in narrow losses to Ireland and France.
Tadhg Beirne (Ireland) and Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Although he wasn’t quite as impressive as he was in New Zealand during the summer, Tadhg Beirne was still superb this month and was one of just a few players who started in all three tests for Ireland.
An easy choice in the second row, Eben Etzebeth remains as physically imposing as ever and is very unlucky to miss out on a place in the official World Rugby team of the year as he was also superb in the Rugby Championship.
Caelan Doris (Ireland), Josh van der Flier (Ireland) and Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
Ireland’s back row was vital in the narrow wins against South Africa and Australia, and Caelan Doris constantly provided front-foot ball while he also got through a huge number of tackles.
Josh van der Flier was also excellent obviously, as he won the World Rugby men’s 15s player of the year award, which he fully deserved after a couple of super performances this month.
Ardie Savea didn’t get any recognition at the World Rugby awards, although it’s clear that he is one of the best players on that planet and he proved that again in November.
Aaron Smith (New Zealand) and Finn Russell (Scotland)
Veteran All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith proved he is still at the top of his game with a sensational display against Wales, while he steered New Zealand to a commanding lead against England, which was only let slip after he came off.
Finn Russell wasn’t even included in Scotland’s original Autumn Nations Series squad, although he was fantastic in a brave losing effort against the All Blacks and backed that up in a big win against Argentina.
Jordie Barrett (New Zealand) and Len Ikitau (Australia)
New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett can seemingly fill in anywhere in the backline, although his recent move to inside centre has proven very promising as he didn’t put a foot wrong against Wales and England.
He’s still just 24, although Len Ikitau is already of vital importance to Australia, as he played in every minute of his country’s five test matches and consistently found space to exploit in midfield.
Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa), Damian Penaud (France) and Ange Capuozzo (Italy)
Another supremely talented Springboks winger, Kurt-Lee Arendse scored five tries in four matches this month, having only made his debut for his country this year.
A man for big moments, Damian Penaud always seems to come up with a try at a crucial moment for France, as he dotted down late on to win the game for Les Bleus against Australia and scored twice against Japan.
Ange Capuozzo announced himself on the international stage during the Six Nations and he continued his remarkable rise by scoring excellent tries against Australia and South Africa.