The clocks have gone back and the weather has turned in a World Cup that has been played in almost unbroken autumn sunshine. And the winds of change are blowing through rugby’s established order too.
It started almost a year ago. 4th October 2014: the day Argentina’s rugby fortunes changed forever. After 17 straight defeats, the Pumas managed to win their first ever Rugby Championship match – against Australia.
Coming back from 14-0 down to win 21-17 marked the turning point for a side that has now justified its place alongside New Zealand, South Africa and the Australians in international rugby’s toughest tournament.
A win against South Africa in the Rugby Championship followed this year, before the most convincing win of all, last weekend’s scuttling of rudderless Ireland.
Australia will know that they are under threat from this rugby climate change. They are still the All Blacks’ closest challengers, although you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of it after last weekend’s shameful scrape against Scotland.
Bernard Foley took almost the full 80 minutes to really find his kicking range, while Michael Hooper was not the same thieving force at the breakdown without his partner in crime David Pocock.
In the Pumas meanwhile, Juan Martín Hernández and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe are giving the performance of their lives in the autumn of their careers. As the mornings get brighter, can they really see themselves in an All Black final?
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