I have been really impressed with how the northern hemisphere in general has performed across this autumn, and I truly believe we’re on top now. I had a pop at picking my Six Nations-based XV based on this November.
1 CYRIL BAILLE – FRA
The power Baille possesses is simply incredible. He is very aggressive in and around the breakdown and a reliable character to have in your pack. He’s been in a fairly dominant scrum across the autumn and played his part in defeating the All Blacks. Nods to Andrew Porter and Wyn Jones, though, who deserve credit for their performances.
2 JAMIE GEORGE – ENG
George is a storyline pick. Prior to the autumn he was Eddie Jones’ fourth choice hooker, excluded from the squad. Now though, he’s back in the fold and worked hard while involved. Though he missed the South Africa match through injury, his rise through the ranks after such a fall is testament to his character.
3 TADHG FURLONG – IRE
Furlong is everything you want in a prop. First of all, he’s a stable scrummager, and that’s important, but he’s also great around the park. He’s stepped backs for fun this autumn and has carried hard. An absolute standout.
4 MARO ITOJE – ENG
Potential England captain Itoje was up to his usual tricks once again this autumn. So disruptive in and around the maul, his ability to slow opposition ball really is invaluable to any England side he plays in.
5 JAMES RYAN – IRE
Against New zealand, Ryan was simply unstoppable. He’s the absolute workhorse forward you’re glad is on your side and not on the opposition’s. He does so many good things off the ball too, running interesting attacking lines and subtly causing havoc when defending.
6 COURTNEY LAWES – ENG
Didn’t this man step up? Lawes was thrown into the captaincy for two of the three games and made it look as though he’d had the role for years. His calm presence would have been a comfort for some of the more inexperienced internationals. He could definitely keep his new found role going forward.
7 TAINE BASHAM – WAL
Though I didn’t quite fall onto the Basham bandwagon this autumn, there’s no doubt he really showed up for a Wales side who were down a few carriers. He’s a great example of a roaming back row, popping up at the right place in the right time. There will be a few players worried him stealing their spot.
8 MATT FAGERSON – SCO
A token Scottish inclusion he is not. Fagerson dominated collisions all autumn and had a brilliant ‘keep going’ mentality. The South Africa match may not have gone the way of the Scots but he stood out.
9 JAMISON GIBSON-PARK – IRE
Though few would argue against Antoine Dupont and Ali Price in this position, for me the way Gibson-Park performed solidified the trust put in him by coach Andy Farrell. Against the All Blacks it would have been easy to start Conor Murray but the pace injection from Gibson-Park really made Ireland tick.
10 ROMAIN NTAMACK – FRA
Ooh la la, silky Ntamack again cemented himself as one of the in-form No10s in world rugby. The Frenchman simply oozes class as he pulls the strings of his side. He’s set such a high standard for himself now that he’ll be criticised for having simply good games – he’s that kind of player. A joy to watch.
11 JAMES LOWE – IRE
Though harping on about the All Blacks losing never tires me, I could easily speak of James Lowe’s performance against them instead. The winger was sensational under the high ball, he carried in the midfield and he finished off brilliant moves. Mr Reliable.
12 MANU TUILAGI – ENG
Though he finished his autumn with yet another injury, Tuilagi showed how much better England are when he plays. He’s the perfect middleman between any No10 and silky No13. England had to completely reshape the way they attacked once he left the field, and proved how paramount he can be to England going forward.
13 GARRY RINGROSE – IRE
Every team needs a playmaker at No13 to be successful, and Ringrose is that link for Ireland. He works so well with Robbie Henshaw and is able to breeze through defences and clean out attacking rucks. He’s exactly what you need in a No13.
14 DAMIAN PENAUD – FRA
French wingers always look so casual in full flight, and Penaud is no different. His turn of pace is almost dramatic and his stepping ability is sublime. He’s a proper pacey winger who wouldn’t be too shabby at 7s.
15 FREDDIE STEWARD – ENG
What a player. He was my one to watch before the autumn and boy did he deliver for me. He’s such a presence at the back of the field, the watchman, the guardian almost. Under the high ball he’s safe as houses, and he’s so strong with the ball in hand. Steward could be a 100-cap player, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
That’s my squad, no doubt all up for debate, but once again: what an autumn series.
The Aussies have saved Pivac this autumn
I think Wales coach Wayne Pivac is a very lucky man.
His side haven’t had much to shout about this campaign and they’re in danger of becoming the plucky losers.
They were routed by a far superior New Zealand team and, weakened squad aside. They just couldn’t keep up.
They scraped past the Fijians, largely thanks to a red card for their opposition. That would have been a sackable result.
Pivac’s men didn’t come close to South Africa despite the scoreline, it felt just so one sided. That Australia game has saved him I think, and they only just managed that.
Wales have dragged their way through 2021 on the back of red cards, and fair dos, they won the Grand Slam, and you do not do that if you are undeserving, but it’s all just looked a little bit laboured.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn