The big story for each top rugby nation

11:39 PM GMT

Ireland conquered 111 years of history. South Africa avoided an embarrassing defeat, while Australia and Argentina dominated. It’s the big story of week one of the autumn internationals. ESPN reporters detail the biggest storylines for each team coming out of the first week.


Nicolas Sanchez’s statement of intent

A 29-point haul from Nicolas Sanchez against Japan could ignite the Pumas autumn series. After an error-filled Rugby Championship saw them register just one victory.

But Sanchez brought the best out of the Argentina back-line against a lacklustre Japanese side and his it was backed up by a strong performance by the forward pack.

Sanchez bagged himself a brace and he showed quality from the kicking tee as well which has often been questionable. With confidence low in the Wales camp after defeat to Australia, they couldn’t play Rob Howley’s side at the better time. — ESPN staff

Weeks 2 Vs. Wales, Principality Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm, GMT


The Fantastic Mr Foley

Welcome back, Bernard Foley. The Wallabies No.10 rediscovered the form that help take Australia to the Rugby World Cup final in London 12 months ago with a dazzling display against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Foley was at the centre of much of the Wallabies’ best work, the No.10 scoring a five-pointer of his own while also laying on a sublime inside ball that put Reece Hodge through for his first Test try. There were signs in Bledisloe III that Foley was getting back to somewhere near his best and perhaps the stint at No.12 throughout the Rugby Championship was the catalyst.

The Wallabies No.10 had fallen into the trap of playing too laterally, firstly against England and then in Bledisloe I; but with the Australian forwards now doing their part through the middle, Foley is playing a far more direct game. The Grand Slam dream lives on for another week but the Wallabies must reproduce a similarly strong performance against Scotland in Edinburgh next weekend, the team that very nearly sent them home from last year’s World Cup at the quarterfinal stage. — Sam Bruce

Week 2 Vs. Scotland, Murrayfield Saturday 2:30, GMT

Bernard Foley Simon King РCameraSport via Getty Images


How can Ireland build on their historic win?

The Ireland team returned home on Sunday with Joe Schmidt lifting their self-imposed alcohol ban for the flight back to Dublin. They were given a few hours to enjoy their historic win over the All Blacks. Next up are Canada on Saturday, a match they’ll win with ease. Then come the Kiwis looking for revenge.

The challenge for Ireland is to build on their win over the All Blacks. They need to channel that into a consistency which we’ve seen from them in the Six Nations but perhaps not against the southern hemisphere big four.

Ireland are building an impressive strength in depth – their win over the All Blacks was without Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien – and that competition for places bodes well for Schmidt’s side. But after ending their 111-year wait for a win over the All Blacks, they must ensure they don’t wait another century to knock over the Kiwis. — Tom Hamilton

Week 2 Vs. Canada, Aviva Stadium Saturday 7:15pm, GMT

New Zealand

TJ Perenara should be first-choice for the All Blacks

Aaron Smith did not look his normal self on Soldier Field in Chicago. The recent off-field attention following that infamous toilet incident which saw him stood down for a match may still be affecting him but he looked off his game against Ireland.

At the start of the Rugby Championship he was the world’s best scrum-half; the passing crisp, the darting runs so effective. But against Ireland those facets of his game were missing. The All Blacks only looked their usual self when TJ Perenara came off the bench. Their game shifted up a gear and suddenly that fearsome black-shirt adorned beast awoke.

With Italy up next on Saturday, the All Blacks will likely get back to winning ways and Ireland a week later will offer a more accurate assessment of where their form is. Perenara should be at scrum-half for that match and Ireland can expect a harder time in the lineout with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock set to be fit. — Tom Hamilton

Week 2 Vs. Italy, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday 2:00pm, GMT

TJ Perenara leads the haka in Chicago. Phil Walter/Getty Images

South Africa

Where has the Boks’ brutal physicality gone?

Another week, another largely unimpressive performance from South Africa. The Springboks may have escaped Wembley with a 31-all draw thanks to Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s late five-pointer, but what they dished up in London will hardly leave England trembling ahead of next week’s showdown at Twickenham.

Again, the Boks looked disjointed in attack and had to rely on set-piece for two of their tries. But perhaps the biggest concern is the fact that the hallmark of South African rugby, brutal physicality, seems to be severely lacking in this current Springboks squad.

On Saturday night at Wembley they fell of tackles with regularity, the likes of Taqele Naiyaravoro and Melani Nanai busting through with ease. The same lack of commitment across town next week will see the Boks in big trouble against England. — Sam Bruce

Week 2 Vs. England, Twickenham, Saturday 2:30pm, GMT


Would the real Wales defence please stand up

What has happened to the Wales defence? Once vaunted as a red wall, it appeared to have been knocked through in Cardiff as Australia ran in five tries with apparent ease.

In all, Wales missed 21 tackles at the Principality Stadium as they took their tally of tries conceded in their last five Test matches to 26, an average of more than five a game. That run has included games against England and New Zealand as well as the Wallabies, but regardless of the standard of opposition it is clearly not good enough.

Australia pushed the Welsh defence back virtually every time they had the ball, and Ross Moriarty admitted afterwards that their first-phase gains were demoralising. Defence coach Shaun Edwards has work to do ahead of Argentina’s visit next Saturday. — Martyn Thomas

Weeks 2 Vs. Argentina, Principality Stadium, Saturday 5:30pm, GMT

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