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Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage

The best single unit in the Wales side is the formidable back row.

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Five things we learned from the final Autumn Nations round

By PA
George North - Press Association

England and Wales collapsed to defeats by South Africa and Australia on a chastening afternoon for the European heavyweights.

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Here, the PA news agency examines five things learned from the final fixtures of the Autumn Nations Series.

On the slide
With the World Cup fast approaching, Eddie Jones has presided over England’s worst calendar year since 2008. Six defeats, one draw and five wins is an unacceptable return from 12 outings and as 2022 draws to a close the team are in a deeper malaise than at any point in the Jones era. Attack, defence, discipline, set-piece, kicking identity, selection, leadership – problems lie at every turn with this autumn’s decline sure to be causing alarm at the Rugby Football Union, who will have noted the boos that rang out at Twickenham.

Webb Ellis Cup a distant dream
Backed by the full support of RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, Jones is destined to remain at the helm until the end of the World Cup whatever happens in the Six Nations. Nine Tests are all that stand before England and the pool opener against Argentina and Jones is pinning all his hopes on building cohesion during the pre-tournament camp that provides him with the greatest amount of time with his players. But it is clear that at this stage they are on the periphery of title contention, even allowing for their kind route to the semi-finals.

Boks show their teeth
While England flail, South Africa are looking well positioned to defend their global crown as they stormed Twickenham for the first time since 2014. Even without their European based stars, they bullied the hosts with their pack typically forceful and half-backs Faf de Klerk and Damian Willemse directing a clear strategy. Narrow losses in Ireland and France point to a mixed autumn, but they stood toe to toe with the sport’s top two sides before demolishing England to indicate they will be a force. Throw in New Zealand, who have shown signs of a revival, and the World Cup has never been so open.

Australia defeat encapsulates Pivac’s reign
Quite how Wales could blow a 21-point lead with 22 minutes left of an absorbing Principality Stadium encounter is a mystery for the modern age and their spectacular implosion meant they ended the year with just three wins from 12 starts. Under Wayne Pivac, they claimed the 2021 Six Nations and were seconds away from achieving a Grand Slam, while they also beat the Springboks in South Africa this summer. But those highs were accompanied by crushing lows – notably home defeats against Italy and Georgia – to underline how it was a case of feast or famine.

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Wales could turn to Warren Gatland
When Wales claimed a first victory over the Springboks in South Africa just four months ago, any prospect of Warren Gatland coaching them at next year’s World Cup would have been dismissed as fanciful in the extreme. Such a scenario, though, now appears a distinct possibility as Pivac clings desperately to his job. If Welsh Rugby Union chiefs decide that Pivac’s time is up after suffering 20 defeats in his 34 Tests at the helm, then Gatland is firmly in the frame to to take over on an interim basis for 12 months.

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