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Why it's more important than ever to remain disciplined in Test rugby

By Finn Morton
Even Dave Rennie was left empathising with disillusioned Australian rugby fans after presiding over the Wallabies' inglorious first-ever loss to Italy. (Getty Images)

International rugby has never been this competitive, and if the most recent round of the Autumn Nations Series is anything to go off, then next year’s World Cup in France is going to be thrilling.

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Rugby fans around the world were treated to another scintillating weekend of Test rugby, as Southern Hemisphere nations continued to challenge themselves against the best teams from the north.

Four of last weekend’s six Test matches were decided by seven-points or less, with discipline clearly hurting teams in hard-fought battles.

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Australia gave away 16 penalties during their first ever loss to Italy, and this ultimately cost them as they lost by just one-point in Florence.

As for reigning World Cup champions South Africa, they lost a thriller against next year’s hosts France 30-26.

Star flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit was red carded just 11-minutes into the Test for a high cleanout attempt. Losing a player of his calibre was always going to be tough to manage, although France’s Antoine Dupont was red carded later in the contest as well.

With the Southern Hemisphere teams looking to avoid a clean sweep, the All Blacks came from behind to beat Scotland 23-31 at Murrayfield.

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New Zealand conceded 13 penalties during the first hour of play, and could’ve lost the Test had it not been for their bench.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons said “there’s just no guarantee” in international rugby anymore as he discussed the importance of remaining disciplined.

“If you don’t get your discipline right you put yourself in such a compromising position,” Parsons said.

“If you look at the World Cup that’s just been, it’s the close nature that brought the excitement and intensity and if you look at the one that’s coming up in the male (game), Italy beating Aussie, Scotland pushing the All Blacks. There’s just no guarantee across all these games.

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“All of the issues, if you look at all the teams that lost and that were pushed further than they probably should’ve as in the All Blacks, is around that discipline and keeping on the right side of the ref.”

The All Blacks were the favourites ahead of their crunch clash with Scotland, and they lived up that hype early in the Test.

New Zealand raced out to a rapid 14-nil lead after tries to Samisoni Taukei’aho and Mark Telea – but the hosts struck back shortly after to level the scores.

Flyhalf Finn Russell was making the most of the All Blacks’ indiscipline as he kicked his side into a strong lead.

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But reminiscent of the champion teams of 2011 and 2015, the All Blacks bench came on and made a match-winning difference during the final 20-minutes.

Six-time Super Rugby champion Bryn Hall believes that while the All Blacks bench was impressive, Scotland “probably should’ve won that game.”

“The good team that we’ve had in the past, it’s that last 20-25 minutes, we’ve been able to bring on impact and been able to change the game tempo wise or been able to have an influence on the game,” Hall said.

“Having TJ Perenara in that moment as well because of his experience in those moments, being able to be there, it’s always beneficial for that group.

“I think for Scotland, you just think again (it’s) one that got away. You have to say for 60-minutes of that match, bar the first two tries from the All Blacks, they dictated terms.

“But you’ve got to commend the All Blacks’ scramble defence and in big moments being able to stop those tries.

“Scotland threw a lot of punches at us and to be honest should’ve had a lot more points. We found a way and gritted it together to be able to get that result. If you’re Scotland, you’re thinking another one that’s got away and probably should’ve won that game.”

The All Blacks have one more Test match to play before their Northern Tour comes to an end, and it’s a blockbuster.

Less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, the men in black will look to keep their winning streak alive when they face England at Twickenham this weekend.

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