Rugby Union Expert & Columnist
Stuart Barnes' talking points: Kyle Sinckler, Owen Farrell and Ellis Jenkins stand out
Last Updated: 26/11/18 6:35pm
Stuart Barnes has high praise For England's Kyle Sinckler and Owen Farrell plus Wales flanker Ellis Jenkins.
1 It all feels a little more squeezed at the apex of international rugby after a dramatic month of Test matches. New Zealand are rarely at their best late in the year, but the narrow victory at Twickenham and the loss in Dublin indicates they are beatable.
Beatable, but still the best. It shouldn't be forgotten that next season will be structured around the World Cup and they'll be far fresher when the year draws to its World Cup conclusion.
Ireland and Wales have both had unbeaten autumns while England will draw plenty of encouragement from the way they played against New Zealand and Australia.
2 Leading the positives at Twickenham was Kyle Sinckler. The 25-year-old Harlequin had his best game yet in an international shirt.
He has made the transition from dynamic impact substitute - call him finisher if you like Eddie speak.
He caused chaos in the scrum, although that is probably the toughest area to evaluate because of the relative weakness of Australia in that particular set piece.
It was around the field he showed his extra dimensions. England now possess a hard-carrying prop forward with a delicious pair of hands. He is also someone capable of going 64 minutes without conceding a penalty.
3 If Sinckler was the English revelation, it was Ellis Jenkins who stepped up a level in Cardiff against South Africa.
In a game of high-quality Welsh defence and territorial imperatives, Jenkins tackled ferociously, creating the first try for Tomas Francis with a classy dummy and won several key turnovers.
Carried off at the end of the game, fingers crossed he will be fit and raring to go in the early part of 2019.
4 Another back rower to make his mark this autumn and on Saturday was Mark Wilson. The Newcastle back row put together another industrious and excellent eighty minutes of rugby.
In the computations for the Man of the Match award, he was closest to the Harlequin prop forward. If fit, Billy Vunipola will obviously stride straight back into the side at No 8, but Wilson is a flexible player and must be considered a serious contender to wear the No 6 shirt.
Sam Underhill grew into the game against Australia and is the England first choice open side. A proper seven and not a construct of other parts, Jones has been waiting a while for his man.
5 Still at Twickenham, Owen Farrell gets away with another shoulder charge to stop Australia scoring at the end of the first half.
Even the patriotic apologists are not arguing this one. This is not the slightest criticism of the fly-half. He did all he could to stop Australia scoring and succeeded.
It has to be up to the referee and his team to officiate. Was it clear and obvious? Definitely. Listen to the commentary, there's no delay from this quarter.
But when Australia complained, Jaco Peyper came up with the tenuous argument that the Australian ball carrier dipped his shoulder. Are players now expected to run upright to avoid the risk of contact? The game has a problem.
6 As for Farrell, he was superb. The argument over the England World Cup No 10 has been put to bed.
There is a decisiveness to his game that lifts those around him and a fierceness of determination rare even at the heights of international sport.
I'll reiterate, the shoulder charge was a good decision on his part, it saved a try. His has been as solid a set of autumn internationals as Jones could have wished for.
7 What fascinated me at Twickenham was the decision to bring Manu Tuilagi onto the field with ten minutes remaining, but not at the expense of Ben Te'o with Farrell switching to twelve and George Ford altering the balance.
There was a glimpse of the pure power of which Jones dreams. On the subject of centres, I was highly impressed with Henry Slade.
It wasn't a day for his tricks but his chasing and tackling was of the highest order. With the basics firmly in place, he can be another formidable part of a midfield with a variety of options.
8 Back to Cardiff and what a joy to see such a crafted first-phase try. Gareth Anscombe's classy pass, the smart utilisation of George North's physical presence as a threat to hold the Springbok midfield in place and Liam Williams' fabulous finish.
First phase is a great time to strike; all those big-hitting forwards bound together rather than strung across the pitch. There is so much more space than when the ball is in open play and international defences are into their intimidating stride.
9 I wonder whether we are seeing the start of a Welsh theme; Gareth Anscombe starting and putting the fizz into the Welsh game and Dan Biggar coming onto play the territory and kick the killer goals.
It isn't always pretty but it has been effective against both Australia and South Africa. A word too for Alun Wyn Jones. He went toe to toe with the talismanic Eben Etzebeth and came out on top while keeping his composure with referees.
Lucky indeed, a country who lose the leadership skills of Sam Warburton only to have AWJ waiting to take over.
10 Ireland, Wales and England have hogged the headlines, but north of the border, Scotland are showing themselves to be not that far off the big three.
An arduous victory against Argentina was not the stuff of headlines but Gregor Townsend is building a team that has more heft than anything seen from Scotland sides in recent years.
It was good for Tommy Seymour to claim a few of the headlines north of the border. I have long been a fan of the winger. His intelligence and hard work, bolted onto the mercurial Finn Russell sums up a Scotland team getting more Test match savvy.
The loss to the Springboks is a reminder there is a way to go - although England were fortunate themselves to get the result against South Africa - but there is enough encouragement to suggest they will play a full part in 2019's Test matches, in Europe and afar.
P.S. I have yet to see France's game against Fiji. For now, suffice to say congratulations to Fiji...