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Jonathan Bradley of Belfast Telegraph (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Jonathan Bradley: Until rugby’s global calendar is aligned, there will never be a truly level playing field

Jonathan Bradley


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Australia celebrate victory

Australia celebrate victory

AP

Australia celebrate victory

While not wholly dismissing a youthful France side’s win in Japan, or indeed Italy’s triumph over Romania, it was not a good weekend for the Six Nations sides.

England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland took on the southern hemisphere’s ‘Big Four’ and all were beaten.

Perhaps the only surprise there was that Wales were the side the came closest to securing a scalp. Beaten at home by Italy in their last outing, Wayne Pivac’s men pushed South Africa all the way despite a flurry of yellow cards before losing an enthralling Test match with a last-gasp penalty. 

Scotland didn’t even get into the ‘22’ during the first-half of their loss to Argentina while against Australia, for the second game in a row, England couldn't make any headway against opposition reduced in numbers thanks to an early red card. 

Ireland, for their part, started well in an effort that will quickly be forgotten given the final score showed 42-19.

The reality is that the northern hemisphere sides are nowhere near as over-matched as they appeared this weekend, just as they are not even close to as superior as they can often look in November. 

It remains a fundamental flaw of the rugby calendar that these Tests are never a level playing field and, while still naturally a worthwhile exercise, therefore ill-suited to use as a measuring stick for the merits of one team over another. 

Take Andy Farrell’s tourists as an example. Just how much more can be in the legs of the so heavily relied upon Leinster contingent after playing just one game short of the maximum this season?

It is no coincidence that the likes of Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong and Hugo Keenan have looked out of sorts at various points over the past two months. New Zealand’s key men, in contrast, are fresh as a daisy with their season still having some four-and-a -it months to run. 

Come November, when the southern hemisphere giants can see their summer holidays inching over the horizon, the shoe is on the other foot. Until a more globally aligned calendar is adopted, the World Cup will be the only leveller with away wins significant achievements.

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