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England finished off their autumn internationals with a sublime performance against the reigning world champions New Zealand – thus ending their 20-match unbeaten run stretching back to August 2011.
This capped a mixed year for a rebuilding England, who were runners up in the RBS 6 Nations Championship but then only managed a single victory over Fiji in their next six tests until the All Blacks visited Twickenham.
France won all three of their autumn internationals, comfortably eclipsing the Wallabies at the Stade de France, accounting for an ever-improving Argentina in Lille and then overcoming a promising Samoa outfit in Paris.
Ireland had a topsy-turvy year, finishing the RBS 6 Nations with an even won two, drawn one, lost two record.
Their tour of New Zealand in June followed with big losses in the first and third tests, but almost upturning the apple cart and form book with a nail-biting 19-22 defeat in Christchurch.
The autumn saw a narrow loss to the Springboks, followed by a superb victory over the Pumas, and a comfortable win over a strong Fiji side in Limerick in a non-capped match.
Italy, who claimed just one win during the 2012 RBS 6 Nations, toured the Americas in the summer, slipping up in Argentina, but then beating Canada and the USA.
November brought the visits of Tonga, New Zealand and Australia, with the only victory being against the Tongans in Brescia but they came mighty close to a first ever victory over the Wallabies.
Scotland’s form dipped, recovered and then dipped again, beginning the year with an unwanted “whitewash” in the RBS 6 Nations, having a terrific June winning all three tests on tour in Australia, Fiji and Samoa, before a poor Autumn saw three straight defeats including a humiliating first defeat to Tonga in Aberdeen a result which cost coach Andy Robinson his job.
Looking at the calendar year of 2012 from a player point of view, three Six Nations players topped 100 test points for their country with Leigh Halfpenny’s 145 points almost claiming the 2012 title which went to Japanese full-back Ayumu Goromaru, whose 158 points were inflated with 62 points scored in two tests against Kazakhstan and the UAE.
Owen Farrell tallied 109 points in his debut season, while Jonny Sexton scored 106 points for Ireland, and Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw came within a whisker of the 100 point milestone.
In the try-scoring stakes it was Tommy Bowe who was the top Six Nations performer with seven tries in seven tests for Ireland in 2012.
Manu Tuilagi, Alex Cuthbert and Wesley Fofana all crossed for five test tries since the new year, but all of these were a long way behind leader Julian Savea’s total of a dozen All Black tries in just nine tests in his debut year.
The best individual performance of the year in terms of points in a game by a Six Nations player was the returning Frederic Michalak, who scored 24 points for France against Argentina.
A dozen test caps in 2012 were earned by Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Owen Farrell, Dan Cole and Geoff Parling. But the record was set by Wallaby skipper Nathan Sharpe who brought down the curtain on an illustrious test career with 15 starts for Australia.
Since the end of the RBS 6 Nations England blooded nine new test players, France nine, Ireland eight, Italy eight, Scotland seven and Wales six.
Of those Scotland’s flying Dutchman, Tim Visser scored four tries, whilst Craig Gilroy, Maxime Machenaud, Rob Harley, Harry Robinson and Visser himself all scored tries on their test debut. Machenaud was somewhat of a good luck charm for France with his country winning all four tests in which he played.