The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
And while that shock result is still reverberating around the rugby world it was an all-too familiar tale in Cardiff as Kurtley Beale’s last-gasp score snatched a 14-12 win for Australia, condemning Wales to their seventh successive defeat since being crowned Grand Slam champions back in March.
None of France, Ireland, Italy and Scotland were in action on the final weekend but after some impressive performances over the past month here we present our RBS 6 Nations team of the autumn.
15. Alex Goode
The Saracens full-back started all four games for the Red Rose this autumn and looked as if he has been wearing the international No.15 jersey for years. Goode was exemplary under the high ball and offered England a fantastic second option at first receiver. Ben Foden, England’s most consistent performer in recent years, must be fearing the worst when the 2013 RBS 6 Nations get underway.
14. Craig Gilroy
He didn’t even make the bench for Ireland’s first game of the autumn against South Africa but after a hat-trick against Fiji and a dazzling display against Argentina the Ulster flyer is now the name on the lips of every Ireland fan and has already been tipped by some as a bolter for next summer’s Lions Tour.
13. Manu Tuilagi
Often accused of being one-dimensional, the Samoan wrecking ball waited until the biggest game of the autumn to rubber-stamp his arrival at the top of the international game.
With off-loads, interceptions and try-scoring passes, Tuilagi made his contest with Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu look like men against boys.
12. Brad Barritt
Always committed in defence, there were some who feared Barritt did not have the required pace or guile to make it as a top-class international inside centre. Those who doubted his attacking instincts were made to eat their words against New Zealand as the Barritt ran amok in tandem with Tuilagi, on top of that the Saracens man hardly missed a tackle all autumn against the three biggest teams in world rugby.
11. Vincent Clerc
The Toulouse winger moved into second place in the list of France’s all-time top try scorers this autumn as Les Bleus went unbeaten in their three fixtures. The 31-year-old started all three wins and proved his predatory instincts are as sharp as ever with a double score against Argentina.
10. Frederic Michalak
Out from the cold and into the hotseat, the mercurial Michalak slotted back into the France team as if he had never been away. Not selected for this year’s RBS 6 Nations squad, the Toulon fly-half was re-instated this autumn and pulled all the strings, combined with near faultless goal-kicking, as France proved they will be force to be reckoned with in 2013.
9. Mike Phillips
France’s decision to chop and change between Maxime Machenaud and Morgan Parra at scrum-half gives Phillips the nod here. Tavis Knoyle got the nod ahead of the Bayonne man for Wales’ opening defeat of the autumn to Argentina but thereafter Phillips was the man in the No.9 shirt and was one of the few positives from a disappointing campaign. Robust in defence as always Phillips looked to be on the road back to his best form just when the autumn came to an end.
1. Andrea Lo Cicero
Part of an Italian front row that more than held their own against New Zealand and dominated Tonga, Lo Cicero was unfortunate to be forced off with rib damage near half-time of their narrow defeat to Australia.
2. Tom Youngs
With the exception of a shaky lineout performance against the South Africans, Youngs proved to be very much at home in the international arena. More visible than Dylan Hartley in the loose but with work to do in the set-piece, theirs is a rivalry that looks set to run for many years to come.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni
The wild Italian gets the nod here ahead of clubmate Dan Cole for his superior scrummaging against the All Blacks and the Wallabies. The 31-year-old looked to be back approaching somewhere near his best this autumn and will give the Tigers much food for thought as the season progresses.
4. Pascal Pape
In the absence of Thierry Dusautoir, Pape took on the captaincy duties as France went unbeaten this autumn and the Stade Francais lock led by example throughout. Strong at the lineout and with some powerful carries, when paired with Yoann Maestri France’s engine room looks very dangerous indeed.
5. Richie Gray
Scotland’s poor autumn saw head coach Andy Robinson fall on his sword but in the face of adversity Richie Gray continues to come of age in the international game. If Scotland are to reverse their disappointing run then Gray will need to be their fulcrum around which a new team is built.
6. Joe Launchbury
Along with Gilroy, Launchbury was the find of the autumn. Powerful performances off the bench against Fiji and Australia saw the Wasps man drafted in the starting XV and the 21-year-old did not disappoint with dynamic performances against South Africa and New Zealand. He may have been at lock for England but is equally effective at flanker and gets the nod at blindside for our team.
7. Yannick Nyanga
Thierry Dusautoir, who needs him? Yannick Nyanga proved a more than capable replacement for The Dark Destroyer this autumn, making tackles, causing havoc at the breakdown and even finding time to run in a try against Argentina.
8. Louis Picamoles
The Toulouse No.8 was a pillar of strength for Philippe Saint Andre’s new-look side this autumn. Picamoles controlled the back of the scrum with real calm and carried in the loose better than any other forward in the international game. Still only 26, he will be a threat for years to come.