2022 New Zealand All Blacks vs Ireland

Summer Tests: What We Learned From Each Team

Summer Tests: What We Learned From Each Team

History was made, streaks were broken, and stars emerged across the rugby world in a fitting cap-off to three scintillating weekends of rugby.

Jul 18, 2022 by Briar Napier
Summer Tests: What We Learned From Each Team

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

Every single series involving a SANZAAR team this weekend came down to the wire, and the finales on Saturday lived up to the hype. 

History was made, streaks were broken, and stars emerged across the rugby world in a fitting cap-off to three scintillating weekends of rugby.

While the SANZAAR sides prep for the Rugby Championship next month, some teams will be licking their wounds while others ride high on momentum heading into the confederation’s top competition. How each example will respond, however, will likely be the most important factor.

Here’s a look at what we learned from each team involved as summer tests came to a close this past weekend.

Ireland Vs. New Zealand 

(Ireland won series 2-1)


It took decades of Irish heartbreak, but Ireland’s historic series win against the All Blacks in New Zealand will be an achievement coach Andy Farrell’s men and their supporters will remember for years to come. 

Ireland’s victories on back-to-back Saturdays in Dunedin and Wellington not only marked the first two times (since the two nations started playing in 1905, no less) that the Irish beat New Zealand in its own backyard, but also the first time the All Blacks had lost back-to-back tests on home soil since 1998. 

Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton was stellar—despite turning 37 during the series and suffering a head injury in the first match. Sexton not only crossed the 1,000 points threshold for his country but also helped it pull off one of the most seismic achievements in its rugby history. 

Ireland’s official No. 1 world ranking Monday will be well-deserved, but it remains to be seen if it can keep the momentum going until and throughout the Rugby World Cup next fall. Ireland earned the top spot in the world for the first time shortly before the 2019 World Cup before it was dumped out in the quarterfinals. 

For now, however, the Irish have earned the right to reflect on what they’ve accomplished and to celebrate a little bit, too. 

Highlights: New Zealand Vs. Ireland

New Zealand

If All Blacks coach Ian Foster’s seat was red-hot prior to the Ireland tour, it’s nuclear now. 

New Zealand had only lost five home series in its history before Ireland’s triumph—the last of which came at the hands of France in 1994—and was outplayed for large swaths of both the second and third tests, most notably when the visiting team stormed out to a 22-3 first-half lead during the series decider. 

Flanker Ardie Savea’s play, from his two tries in the opening game to near-singlehandedly getting the All Blacks back into the final game, was one of the few bright spots as New Zealand has a lot of soul-searching to do following just one win in its past five tests—a nearly unheard of poor stretch from who many consider to be international rugby’s most storied team. 

Foster is under contract until the end of the 2023 World Cup, but following New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson calling the series defeat “not acceptable” in a rare statement, it’s clear that those involved with selecting and coaching the All Blacks are feeling the pressure. 

Next month’s Rugby Championship is a critical point in Foster’s tenure, and if the All Blacks fall flat again, Foster’s role could be in serious jeopardy.

Wales Vs. South Africa 

(South Africa won series 2-1)

South Africa

The defending world champions’ long-awaited return to playing in front of full home crowds was far from perfect, but a cozy 30-14 series-clinching win in the final test restored some confidence and showed just how clinical the Springboks can be when firing on all cylinders. 

Squad depth could be a concern after a mostly-rotated team granted Wales its first-ever win in South Africa on July 9. But, coach Jacques Nienaber’s best 15 is still among (if not outright) the most talented in the world, with the likes of fly-half Handre Pollard and hooker Bongi Mbonambi continuing to prove themselves to be two of the finest at their positions on Earth.

However, it was the Springbok fullbacks in Willie le Roux and Damian Willemse—the latter of whom kicked a last-minute penalty to win the first test—that especially made their marks as breakout stars from the series with each earning praise for their play on the pitch. 

South Africa might have lost its world No. 1 distinction because it didn’t sweep the Welsh, but considering that Wales put up a much more valiant effort than most observers likely predicted, the second-test slip-up likely doesn’t impact the Springboks standing as a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. 


Largely cast aside for its South Africa tour following a humiliating defeat to Italy in this year’s Six Nations, Wales instead won its first game against the Springboks on South African soil and was minutes away from winning the entire series. 

It was exactly the type of response coach Wayne Pivac’s team needed after a tumultuous past few months, and Wales can return back to the United Kingdom with its heads held high. 

The Welsh may have also found some new stars, too. Leicester Tigers star (and recent Premiership Rugby champion) Tommy Reffell, who was capless before the series, started all three games at outside flanker and earned rave reviews for his performances. Reffell garnered “man of the match” in the win over the Springboks and capped off the tour with his first international try in the 19th minute of the third test. 

Meanwhile, loosehead prop Gareth Thomas entered the series with a little more experience (seven caps) but held his own well against a South African front line that was an integral part of it winning the World Cup three years ago. 

Wales won’t play again until the end-of-year tests this autumn, but it has some high-quality game film to study—and fond memories to look back on.

England Vs. Australia 

(England won series 2-1)


Eddie Jones just loves picking on Australia. The native Aussie, former Wallabies coach and current England boss, improved his record with his current team to 10-1 against Australia. 

The English captured the Ella-Mobbs Trophy in the Land Down Under with a 21-17 win this past weekend at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Having lost the first meeting, the English comeback across the latter two matches (which included a second-half comeback in the series decider) showed an edge that they seemed to miss for much of this year’s Six Nations, where it finished third. 

There were two names in the English 15 that especially stood out—outside flanker Courtney Lawes was named captain for the tour and showed why Jones gave him that distinction with a game-high 15 tackles in the third test and a tireless motor throughout. 

And on the front line, prop Ellis Genge scored a try in Perth, barreled over Aussie captain Michael Hooper for a highlight-reel carry in Brisbane and threw aside Samu Kerevi in Sydney, giving plenty of mettle to his nickname of the “Baby Rhino.” 

Jones may not have the strongest squad he’s had while in charge of England (that honor goes to the side that went through all of 2016 unbeaten), but winning a series against the Wallabies on their home soil is never easy—even if Jones has made it seem that way as of late. 


Having lost five of its past six matches, Australia is in a slump that it can’t afford to be in with The Rugby Championship coming up. 

Discipline was a notable issue for the Wallabies throughout the series as a Darcy Swain red card in the opening test (ironically Australia’s only win against the English during their tour) forced Australia to play a man down for over a half. England’s Owen Farrell capitalized with three penalties in the series closer to put his country over the line in Sydney. 

Fly-half Noah Lolesio, shoved into the first test shortly before kickoff as usual starter Quade Cooper suffered an injury in warmups, followed up well from his stellar season with the Brumbies in Super Rugby with three solid starts. 

But Australia’s forward pack struggled to find form, an issue that resulted in a lack of quality, key chances that coach Dave Rennie’s side could’ve capitalized on. 

A brutal 10 injuries didn’t help on top of some self-inflicted mistakes from the Wallabies—a try from England’s Marcus Smith in the finale springs to mind—as they’ll hope to find some adequate rest and recuperation before the gauntlet of New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina arrives.

Scotland Vs. Argentina 

(Argentina won series 2-1)


The past three weekends have marked a good beginning to life under new coach Michael Cheika. The former Australia boss was hired following Mario Ledesma’s resignation earlier this year after previously serving in an assistant role with Los Pumas. 

Three matches in, it seems early on that Argentina made a solid choice in its appointment on the touchline. A triumphant 26-18 debut win for Cheika in San Salvador was spoiled a bit following Scotland’s rebound victory in Salta, but Los Pumas bounced back with a thrilling 34-31 series-clincher in Santiago del Estero that was capped off with a game-sealing try after the siren from center Emiliano Boffelli. 

The Argentines looked fast and furious in both games that they won, resulting in a welcome return for their first games at home since COVID-19 began and their first home test series win since pulling off the feat against Ireland in 2007. 

It was a fruitful way for Los Pumas to gain some confidence going into the always-tough Rugby Championship, of which Argentina is 5-1-42 all-time in the competition. 

But South America’s top rugby nation can beam with pride at what it accomplished during this month—and who knows, Cheika could just be getting started. 


The burning question for Scotland was always going to be how it would handle being without the two beating hearts of its team for the past decade. 

Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg both sat out the Argentina series to rest up for the important competitions (Six Nations, Rugby World Cup) that loom over the next year or so. 

The dominant 29-6 win over Los Pumas in the second test was undoubtedly a positive, but what followed in the third and final game—in which Scotland led by 15 points with a half-hour left and lost—was a scenario in which coach Gregor Townsend would’ve loved to have had trusted veteran leadership on the pitch. 

That’s not to say there weren’t encouraging things to take away from the tour, though, 22-year-old hooker Ewan Ashman looked like a rising star with two tries in the series decider. Captain Hamish Watson bounced back from an injury that forced him to miss the first test with a try in the second one. 

It may not have been a full-strength Scottish side that trotted out to South America, but some of its pressing issues were on full display. The team will just have to hope things are resolved by the fall slate that includes Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and a Los Pumas rematch.