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Barnes' talking points: A great day for the northern hemisphere, but only one day

Devin Toner was Man of the Match against the Springboks in Cape Town
Image: Ireland's Devin Toner was man of the match against the Springboks in Cape Town

Devin Toner, James Haskell and Eddie Jones all feature in Stuart Barnes' talking points from the weekend's rugby action...

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Sky Sports pundit Stuart Barnes gives his opinion on the England squad after watching them beat Australia on Saturday

1. This was one of the best days of rugby the northern hemisphere has had for quite some time. Two wins out of three on southern hemisphere soil and a creditable effort from Wales, yet again, which is a boost for the global game after the embarrassing dominance of the southern hemisphere in the recent World Cup.

2. It is hard to know which of England or Ireland merit the greater praise. England played against what looked like the superior opposition but Ireland, hampered by playing with 14 men for 60 minutes and 13 for 10, were utterly heroic.

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Highlights of Ireland's first Test against South Africa in Cape Town

It was three o'clock in the morning here in Brisbane when the final whistle blew in Cape Town. I didn't sleep a wink. It was that sort of day for European rugby.

3. But it remains only one day. Ireland achieved their first win in South Africa but Joe Schmidt, like Eddie Jones, has to press home the advantage and win the series. Anything less makes the first Test wins for both sides mere footnotes, rather than something solid.

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Joe Schmidt says he has never been prouder as a 14-man Ireland recorded a famous win against South Africa in Cape Town

4. James Haskell. I walked onto the pitch at full time for an interview with the studio back in London. Haskell was walking off the field, beaming. I am not sure he would quite believe how wonderfully he had played, I am not sure I could either.

Eddie Jones is some kind of alchemist, I am not suggesting the previous versions of 'the Hask' were made of lead, but this was a performance of pure gold.

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James Haskell put in 18 tackles against Australia to help England to an impressive 39-28 victory in the first test in Brisbane

The tackle on David Pocock was the early marker, the break for the Yarde try the highlight and the ubiquity of his final 20 minutes the memory never to be forgotten. This was Haskell's test.

The night before Jones told Rod Kafer to keep an eye on Haskell. Yep, Eddie is an alchemist all right.

5. What a decision by the manager to substitute Luther Burrell so early in the game. The selection was panning out all wrong as Australia outflanked England's struggling midfield defence. George Ford was hitting tackle bags as early as 15 minutes into the game. Jones saw the problems and addressed them rapidly.

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Highlights of England's 39-28 win over Australia in the first game of their three-Test series in Brisbane

Farrell switched to inside centre, the defence started to communicate and George Ford left his season blues back in the other hemisphere and played one of his visionary blinders.

6. How many second rows will the Lions have to choose from next season? On the evidence of Saturday's action, the selectors' only problem is going to be who to omit.

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Alun Wyn Jones gave us all a dress rehearsal for Auckland with 80 minutes of unstinting effort but he'll have to keep his standards at their very highest to fight off the competition.

England have four men who are all up to wearing the red shirt. Maro Itoje has made the step from Under 20s rugby to club, club to Six Nations and Six Nations to the global stage with complete ease. He is on that plane, in that Test 23 barring an injury. But don't forget George Kruis, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes. They are all playing at some level.

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Devin Toner picked up man of the match for Ireland as they beat South Africa in their first Test

Switch continents to Africa, and Ireland have a few contenders of their own. People laugh at me when I extol the virtues of Devin Toner. I think it is because he looks so ungainly but this guy is some player. He rules the airways in lineouts and restarts.

His combination with Iain Henderson was breathtaking at times. Henderson is such an athlete. Fourteen tackles, countless carries and the odd rip in the tackle. He has to be on the long list, especially with his capacity to play on the blindside flank as well.

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And then there is Ultan Dillane. The Connacht man is a growing force. He came off the bench and added immense and immediate impact with his potent carrying game.

7. What a rotten blow for Wales, George North and all rugby fans to see the winger limp off in Auckland with what appears to be a tour-ending hamstring injury. While we were stunned by the changing pace of Naholo in the New Zealand game, wasn't it encouraging to see North looking so menacing every time he received possession?

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Who is Keelan Giles? The U20s Wales winger has been called to New Zealand as injury cover

It was encouraging for two reasons. Firstly, he is going to be a key weapon in the Lions artillery and secondly, it is a pleasant surprise to see Wales utilising him so early in the game. Wales played with much more ambition than we have seen from them in recent years.

Watching players like Liam Williams take the game to the All Blacks is a reminder that Europe have a few corners where quality backs grow on trees.

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Highlights of New Zealand's 39-21 victory of Wales at Eden Park

8. Don't presume the All Blacks are vulnerable because they have lost a million caps with the retirements of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and those two blokes who combined in the centre.

Memories are short. New Zealand are often slow out of the blocks and in Kieran Read and Aaron Smith they possess half-decent (ahem) decision-makers where it matters. I hope I am wrong, but I fear Wales have had their chance.

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Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss says unforced errors cost South Africa as Ireland beat them in Cape Town

9. The Australians are going to come hard at England next week. There is no question but what about the Springboks? Whereas Australia were wonderful for sections of the game, South Africa were turgid throughout.

It was a desperately disappointing start for new coach, Allister Coetzee at his home ground. The Springboks look a vulnerable team, without a style of play or clear direction of where they want to go.

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10. Bad to worse for that great rugby land as Argentina beat South Africa in the World Rugby Under 20s championship in the north of England. Did I imagine it or did someone tell me Ireland beat New Zealand too? I must have been imagining it, surely?

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Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says simple mistakes cost them as Ireland recorded their first ever win in South Africa

Well, that's it for this week as I endure a bout of insomnia. Thank God for the great game, there's a reason to skip sleep!

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