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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 10:04 GMT
Southern hemisphere dominance over?
Ben Cohen scored twice for England against Australia
England edge Australia, Scotland beat South Africa and France draw with New Zealand in the second round of autumn Tests.

Has the northern hemisphere edged ahead? Or will it be business as usual at next year's World Cup?


England have beaten New Zealand and Australia in consecutive weeks and play South Africa on Saturday for a triple slam.

Scotland beat South Africa 21-6 at Murrayfield on Saturday, their first win over the Springboks for 33 years, while France drew 20-20 with the All Blacks at the Stade de France.

Meanwhile, Ireland followed up last week's win over the Wallabies with a crunching 64-17 win over Fiji.

Is the era of southern hemisphere dominance over?


This debate is now closed. See below for a selection of your emails.


Home advantage is the most crucial factor in international rugby union and it seems fair to assume that if England were to play the All Blacks and Australia away from 'fortress' Twickenham then the results would comfortably swing the other way.


The tide is turning because at last both England and France are starting to utilize their huge playing resources
Steve Perry , UK

Before these internationals I considered England to be the best team in world rugby but following narrow victories over the two southern hemisphere teams it is difficult to see them winning the World Cup away in Australia.
James Webber, Guernsey, CI

Does anyone honestly think that Australian rugby will just lie down before a home World Cup? Yes, the northern hemisphere has caught up. Thank God! However, all these latest results demonstrate is that home advantage is a big advantage when the teams are closely matched.

The northern hemisphere's saviour during the World Cup in Australia will be the strength of the pound. It would not surprise me if half the stadiums in Australia are full of middle class pommies who have organised business junkets around the World Cup.

Still, as long as they're feeding our economy, we'll gladly encourage the delusional thinking that England will win on Australian soil against Australia for the first time since the game was invented. Remember the Lions?
Tim Kelly, Australian

The tide is turning because at last both England and France are starting to utilize their huge playing resources. Whilst it is debatable whether England are sufficiently good enough to win he World Cup outside of the UK is a bone of contention - home advantage has become such an important factor.

However, even the most myopic Antipodean must now admit that the air of invincibility around the ABs and Australia has been eroded .
Steve Perry , UK


There's a real whiff of complacency in the air
Daniel, UK (London)

Not only are England now on a level playing field but so are Ireland. France should have put the All Blacks to bed on Saturday but the last time I looked Aus and NZ are favourites for the World Cup. This is due to home advantage which as was proved on Saturday is a big difference.

Come on the northern hemisphere, most of it is psychological anyway. We are individually and collectively as good as any Kiwi or Australian side. You can discount the Boks at the moment.
Rob, Wales

England beat Australia in Twickenham by one point in cold miserable conditions and suddenly England are World Cup favourites. When England comes to Australia and win by at least 10 points, in dry conditions, against a full strength Australian side, then they might qualify as potential World Cup winners. I think the same applies to South Africa and New Zealand.
Adrian Hathorn, Australia

There's a real whiff of complacency in the air after the last couple of weekends. Yes, England and Ireland are probably stronger than they have been in a very long time, but the Wallabies and the Springboks were very poor indeed and the All Blacks were understrength.
Daniel, UK (London)

You can't win when it counts - remember the last three Grand Slams? Remember the last time you visited Australia - you got belted 78-0. You've never won in Australia; next year will be no different.
Sue, Australia


To truly close the gap once and for all they will have to repeat these wins in the southern hemisphere
Chris, UK

Let's not get carried away, we still have a lot of catching up to do. As for those who say that the results don't mean anything as they are friendlies, let me say I have played rugby in South Africa and there is no such thing as a friendly the southern hemisphere teams always play to win!
John, England

The ABs are testing the young players out, and have shown that there is a lot of depth there - they are on target to peak at the right time and win the World Cup. Australia have hit their peak already and this could be difficult to correct for next year. South Africa have a lot of work to do.

The northern hemisphere sides are most certainly closing the gap, but until they show consistency, especially in the last 20 minutes, they will continue to play second string to the likes of the southern hemisphere sides. England and Ireland will have a good showing, while France will be dangerous on their day.
Rob Martin, Oxford, England/NZ

There is no doubt that the gap between the northern and southern hemisphere teams is closing, but I think a gap is still there. Congratulations to England, Ireland and Scotland for their wins - but to truly close the gap once and for all they will have to repeat these wins in the southern hemisphere.

This is a very tall order, and a difficult task. The same can be said of England's chances of winning the World Cup - in a big game that matters England invariably blow it. The northern hemisphere should just keep up what they are doing and keep their feet firmly on the ground.
Chris, UK

England are only successful at Twickenham, and they only just managed to beat NZ and Australia. Until they win in Auckland and Sydney they can not claim to be the best in the world. A southern-hemisphere team will win the World Cup, with only France capable of threatening this
Geoff, England

Although the easiest-looking of the three autumn internationals, England's game against South Africa on Saturday is by far the most important. A big win would set the Springboks even further back than they already are. Psychologically, a good win would also really help for the World Cup group game next year. If England can win that one, they will avoid New Zealand. If they lose, it could be an early exit.


The World Cup should restore the status quo
Eoin Dempsey, Ireland

To be really confident of success against the very best, though, England must find the right mix at 12 and 13. I don't think France and the All Blacks will be unduly worried by the honest-but-limited Tindall and the erratic Greenwood.
Delme Jones, UK

The northern hemisphere teams have acquitted themselves extremely well over the last few weeks and there seems little doubt now that the gap between the Six-Nations and the Tri-Nations has closed considerably. This needs to be looked at in context however.

These are home internationals against an off colour Australia, an enormously inexperienced New Zealand and a diabolical South Africa. The World Cup will be a different matter altogether.

Australia will recover the form their class still dictates they possess. New Zealand will have figured out their best 15 and their inexperienced youngsters will have grown in stature by the start of the World Cup. Even South Africa will recover, and will undoubtedly field a team more in line with their proud rugby traditions.

A shift in the balance of power? Maybe. But the World Cup should restore the status quo; particularly as this time it will be the northern hemisphere sides making the trip.
Eoin Dempsey, Ireland

As an England supporter, I'd like to think that we had a chance next year. But who's kidding who here?

If we were serious about winning the World Cup in Oz we'd have closed down the Zurich premiership in January and February and extended the season into the early summer. At least then we might have been ready to play in the sort of conditions we'll find down under.
Dave, England

Although I am a die-hard England fan, I find hopes of our rugby superiority constantly dashed at the last minute by silly losses. Before we can judge by how much our team has improved, we need to see how they perform in the Six-Nations.


Home advantage is the most crucial factor in international rugby union
James Webber, Guernsey, CI

Still, that said, a win's a win, and I'll take it. Let's enjoy it while it lasts!! Good job lads, perhaps a bigger victory against South Africa... my nerves can't take another one like last Sat! (Top job to Ireland for their performance on Sunday).
James, England

I don't think the shift is that dramatic and England need to keep their feet on the ground rather than referring to these minor Tests as a change in power.

The biggest thing that we should take out of these Tests is simply that we should not fear any team be it northern or southern hemisphere teams. I urge anyone that thinks Australia, New Zealand or South Africa won't be contenders for the Web Ellis trophy to think again.

We will be playing in front or a partisan crowd, in different conditions, many, many miles from the roar of the Twickenham support that the team is currently used to. We need to keep our mind focused on the job at hand and to make the results count in a year's time, or this will all be wasted euphoria.
Ron, England

Home advantage is the most crucial factor in international rugby union and it seems fair to assume that if England were to play the All Blacks and Australia away from 'fortress' Twickenham then the results would comfortably swing the other way.

Before these internationals I considered England to be the best team in world rugby but following narrow victories over the two southern hemisphere teams it is difficult to see them winning the World Cup away in Australia.
James Webber, Guernsey, CI

England are definitely the best side on current form. However it's hard to think back to the last time they beat any of the big three away from home.

England have come on in leaps and bounds but I believe it will be one of either SA, AUS, or NZ who win the World Cup. After all, they know exactly how to handle the pressure of big, important matches far better than any European team.
Levi, UK


You don't think you are jumping the gun just a tad do you?
Nigel, Australian in London

England are getting there but their basic skills and eye for a gap are not as developed. The attacking rugby in the southern hemisphere is far in advance of everyone with the possible exception of France.

England can win the World Cup next year but will have to find a creative centre and a full back that can come into the line from deep. Maybe Simpson Daniel could move to the centre, Robinson to the wing and Lewsey into full back?
Tim, England

Compared to some of the rubbish I used to sit through watching England a few years ago then this team is a major improvement. But until they prove themselves away from home (two visits to NZ in last 14 years remember) then the chance of them taking a World Cup outside of Europe remain slim.

They need big game wins and experience away from London. Hopefully changes to the rugby calendar and a more outward approach by England administrators will make England even better...
Max Power, NZ

You don't think you are jumping the gun just a tad do you? England beating two of the Southerners does not mean that the tide is turning its just two good games on the trot. Let's not also forget the advantage a home ground advantage can have on a side as well as England playing sides that are at the end of their season whilst the Northern lads are at their beginning on home soil.

I think it will be a different story come World Cup when the English and have to play in our backyard with our weather and OUR crowds to cheer them on. Go you Aussies!!!
Nigel, Australian in London

We're on home turf, with autumn/winter weather. The weather in particular is not easy for the southern teams, and playing in a hostile Twickenham must be no fun at all. New Zealand didn't field a full strength squad, and if Wilkinson had missed even one kick on Saturday we'd have lost to a very competent Wallabie squad.

The gap is narrowing, maybe it's even closed, but we need to open up a new gap in the reverse direction. We're years away from that. To stop us, the southern hemisphere teams could do with getting some of their internationals playing in the northern hemisphere, particularly the All Blacks.

It is also clear that there is a big difference in the interpretation of the rules and tactics of the game. The English need to play by southern standards next year - we need to improve on using decoy runners and we need to somehow cope with what will be a hot and hostile environment, far from home. We traditionally do not travel well, so I am nowhere near as confident as many people on this board.
Alex, England


Let's not get too excited about narrow home wins over a 'B' team from New Zealand and an Australia team that will be playing on home turf in the World Cup
Stephen, Wales

As a Kiwi and rugby fan I am excited by the improvement in English and French rugby since the last World Cup. Both sides are far more consistent and are certainly capable of beating any team - at home, anyway. Rugby is the better for this improvement, and the World Cup is more up for grabs than at any previous time.

However, English fans are well known around the world for their lack of context (whether it is rugby, tennis, of football up for discussion). Squeaking fortuitously past a second-string AB side at Twickenham is a world away (in more ways than one) from playing a full strength All Black side on firm ground at Eden Park. Or an Australian side in Sydney.

When you've beaten us away from home, then you deserve to be called a top team - But not before.
Richard, NZ/UK

A string of great results yes; a precursor to winning the World Cup? No. England still do not have the 'genius' in key places- Robinson has been 'worked out', Greenwood and Tindall need the space handed to them on a platter last season in the Six-Nations, and no matter how good Wilkinson gets, he will find it hard to forget his mauling at the hands of Betsen last season against France.

England are a good side, possibly a great side, but the big match Bogeyman lives on. England need a Grand Slam to exorcise it.
Matthew Baty, UK

England and France have been hard to beat at home for decades - there's nothing unusual about the recent wins. So let's not get too excited about narrow home wins over a 'B' team from New Zealand and an Australia team that will be playing on home turf in the World Cup.

The really exciting change for world rugby is that Ireland has become a consistently top performer. There now seem to be six teams that have a realistic chance at winning the 2003 World Cup and it's very hard to say which of them deserves to be favourite at this stage. I'd still put my money on Australia because irrespective of form on the road, they seldom lose at Sydney.
Stephen, Wales


The balance is shifting but there's a long way to go yet
David, UK
Australia are in decline and will not make the World Cup final. SA have underperformed terribly on this tour, but are still a force. Of the southern giants the ABs have clearly performed the best, even while resting their 'A' team.

But England have proven themselves to be a hugely solid unit and France look to have all the strength and skill of a World Cup-winning team. It's ignorant of too many factors to talk about either hemisphere having dominance right now.

The truth is, five teams will have a chance of winning next year. And of those five, two, France and the ABs, look to be most on track. After these two front up in the final (as the draw will allow), we can talk about which hemisphere dominates then.
Aiden, UK

The balance is shifting but there's a long way to go yet. If there are a majority of northern sides in the semi-finals next year and a winner from the same hemisphere then the southern dominance will be over, but at the moment this is just a step on the way.
David, UK

There's no doubt that England, France and Ireland have improved to the point where they can compete on pretty much equal terms with New Zealand and Australia.


"Can anyone in Australia play rugby?"
Rob O'Driscoll, Ireland

Let's not forget, however, that all these victories over southern hemisphere teams were on home territory. It remains to be seen whether they can translate this into victories away from home, especially in Australia come the World Cup.
Graham Small, UK

"Can anyone in Australia play rugby?"
Rob O'Driscoll, Ireland

Well done England. All these excuses from disgruntled southerners are rubbish. The big three have come on tour to win and establish some psychological advantage before the World Cup. Thus far they have failed to do so.

However, I do feel that they have a little way to go before they peak and the Aussies and Kiwis will be stronger next year. England, though, seem to have found the ability to win tight matches which is a trait that great southern hemisphere World Cup winning sides have displayed in the past.
Neil, Wales

Let's not all get excited, winning two rugby friendlies at home does not make us world champions. We also played a second string All Blacks. Come the WC we will not reach the final.
Mark Cohen, UK

There is absolutely no chance a northern hemisphere side can triumph in the World Cup. The wintry weather is obviously hindering the southern hemisphere sides but the World Cup is always held in the warmth of summer, always tilting the balance south. And well done England, Ireland and mostly Scotland!
Alun, Cardiff

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