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Power Ranking International Teams

Danny CoyleFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2013

Power Ranking International Teams

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    The Southern Hemisphere giants swept the board with wins over England, Scotland and Ireland in a sobering weekend for European rugby.

    As New Zealand edged ever-closer to a perfect 12 months and South Africa swatted Scotland, Australia's much-maligned players got themselves out of the bar to thump Ireland in Dublin.

    It was the supporters of the Northern Hemisphere sides who were in need of a good, stiff drink by the end of the weekend, as only Wales could muster a win over a top 10 side.

    Here's how they stack up.

10. Argentina

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    From the moment their coach stepped down and their injury list lengthened, this tour represented a hiding to nothing for Argentina, and it has proved exactly that so far.

    The Pumas had no answer to a side hell-bent on getting their first win of the season and they are limping towards their final match of the year without a win to their name against a tier one nation.

    Positives? Their Under 20s beat South Africa in a series this year and Pumitas' fly-half Patricio Fernandez was top points scorer at the Junior World Cup. Time to look to the future.

9. Italy

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    The Azzurri chalked up a 37-31 win over Fiji following their humiliation at the hands of the Wallabies.

    Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni were celebrating their 100th caps for Italy, and when they moved out a 20-5 lead as Fijian indiscipline saw them rack up five yellow cards, it seemed as though it would be a straightforward win.

    A late rally from the Islanders made for a tense finale, but Parisse’s men held on. They face Argentina next to round off their autumn programme and will be keen to secure a win to heap further misery on the Pumas.

8. Scotland

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    Looking for positives from a pointless performance is a futile task.

    Best to burn the video tape—and that nasty change strip—and focus on next week. South Africa might be the second-best team on the planet but to be "nilled" on your own turf is nothing short of an embarrassment.

    Basic lineout defence deserted Scotland as they failed to cope with a simple change in direction from the Boks' rolling maul, and the interception gifted to Willie Le Roux for South Africa’s second try will not make for comfortable watching.

7. Ireland

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Ireland would not have expected such a beating from a side reportedly in decline.

    Australia found it too easy to puncture the Irish defence and there must now be genuine concern that Jonny Sexton is suffering burnout.

    After starring for the Lions and moving to Racing Metro, the former Leinster pivot is no longer in the protective clutches of the IRFU and has played far more games than he usually would have at this stage of the season. It would seem his body is reacting negatively to that.

    Once his hamstring betrayed him on the stroke of half-time, Ireland failed to continue their comeback from 15-3 down.

    Sexton had nudged them back to 15-12, but only one further penalty from his replacement Ian Madigan was all they could muster. Reality has bitten early in the brave new world of coach Joe Schmidt.

6. Wales

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Wales shrugged off the perennial disappointment of defeat to one of the big three with a comprehensive beating of a deflated Argentina.

    A 44-6 walloping compared with a more laboured result achieved by England over the same opposition suggests Wales at least have a sharper attack.

    But as a yardstick of their current form, it’s not hugely useful. Argentina are knackered. This list has been given some stick for ranking the Welsh so low given their Six Nations triumph, but a win over serious southern opposition remains elusive.

    They face Tonga before Australia roll up the following week—and with half their squad sitting on the naughty step.

    A golden chance awaits Warren Gatland’s men. His primary concern could be filling the Nos. 12 and 13 shirts after seeing Cory Allen join the injured list and Scott Williams walk away from the stadium in a protective boot.

    With Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies already out, the centres' cupboard is looking bare.

5. France

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    Les Bleus needed a comprehensive win over Tonga to confirm that the powerful, gallant display in defeat to New Zealand a week earlier had not been a flash in the pan.

    They got it in the shape of a 38-18 victory that was their first win since March. It was an ill-tempered affair at Le Havre, though, with Yoann Maestri seeing red for trading blows with Tongan prop Sona Taumalolo.

    The Springboks pitch up in Paris next in what is shaping up to be the game of the weekend.

    The French pack will need to be everything the Scottish forwards were not in Edinburgh, and if they can find the same intensity in performance they mustered against New Zealand, it should be some contest.

4. Australia

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    The gloom is lifting for Australia in these dark days of winter.

    Having recovered from a dire display against England with a thumping of Italy, Ireland were comprehensively beaten 32-15 on Saturday evening.

    On form, Quade Cooper is getting his back line humming and Michael Hooper is playing out of his skin at No. 7.

    What a shame, then, that a victory that puts their tour back on the rails has been undermined by half the team being disciplined for hitting the sauce in the build-up to the game.

    If Ewen Mackenzie had any hair, he’d be yanking it out by the handful.

    Plenty of young men have traveled to the fair city to indulge in a spot of excessive drinking, so you can hardly blame them for following such a well-worn path, but there's a time and a place.

3. England

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    England surged back from 17-3 down to prove their mettle against the All Blacks, thanks to the efforts of their forwards.

    Their back line, however, continued to misfire. After battering their way to a 22-20 lead in the second half, when Stuart Lancaster started to make changes, things started coming undone.

    Their lineout, such a secure source of possession under the watch of Dylan Hartley, fell to pieces after Tom Youngs’ introduction and their momentum drained away.

    A full 80-minute performance could have yielded a second consecutive win over the All Blacks, but to compete with and beat the world’s best, Lancaster must find a cutting edge to his back line.

2. South Africa

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    The Springboks completed a functional win over Scotland, shutting their hosts out completely in a straightforward, clinical performance at Murrayfield.

    Scotland had no answer to a simple catch-and-drive routine that yielded two easy tries. You sense the Boks have had a harder time getting that right on their own training field than they did against the Scots.

    Willie Le Roux was at the heart of their other two scores, pouncing for an interception in the first half and displaying some silky footwork in the second before executing a perfectly judged chip that bounced into JP Pietersen’s hands.

1. New Zealand

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    The All Blacks were weighed and measured and found to have the composure required on Saturday.

    It looked as though they would wreak bloody revenge after 18 minutes following two quick tries, and England appeared unable to live with the pace and width of their attack.

    But once they were dragged into the trenches, it was a far rockier road to victory No. 13 from 13 outings in 2013.

    When England took a two-point lead in the second half, it was possible that lightning could strike twice at Twickenham.

    But Steve Hansen’s side kept their heads and knew there was time for their chance to come. When it arrived, it was fitting that Ma’a Nonu, such a consistent performer all season, was the creator for Julian Savea’s second score.

    Only Ireland stand in their way as they look to record a perfect 12 months.

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