Five things we learned from the final matches of the Autumn Nations series

England and Wales were defeated by South Africa and Australia in an afternoon of chastisement for the European heavyweights.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five lessons learned from the final matches of the Autumn Nations series.

On the slide

With the World Cup fast approaching, Eddie Jones presided over England’s worst calendar year since 2008. Six defeats, one draw and five wins is an unacceptable comeback after 12 outings and as 2022 draws to a close the side are in a deeper malaise than at any point in the Jones era. Attack, defence, discipline, set piece, identity of kicks, selection, leadership – problems lie at every corner as this autumn’s decline is sure to cause alarm at the Rugby Football Union, who will have noticed the boos that have echoed at Twickenham.

Webb Ellis Cup a distant dream

South African Damian Willemse celebrates an emphatic win at Twickenham (Ben Whitley/PA)

Backed by the full backing of RFU Chief Executive Bill Sweeney, Jones is set to remain at the helm until the end of the World Cup, come what may in the Six Nations. Nine tests are all that remain ahead of England and group openers against Argentina and Jones is pinning all his hopes on building cohesion in the pre-tournament training camp which affords him the most amount of time with his players. But it is clear that at this stage they are on the edge of title contention, even factoring in their gentle path to the semi-finals.

Boks show their teeth

As England struggle, South Africa look well placed to defend their world cup crown as they storm Twickenham for the first time since 2014. Damian Willemse heads a clear strategy. Few defeats to Ireland and France point to a mixed autumn, but they held their own with the sport’s two best sides before demolishing England to indicate they will be a force. Add New Zealand, which has shown signs of recovery, and the World Cup has never been so open.

Australia’s defeat sums up Pivac’s reign

How Wales could blow a 21-point lead with 22 minutes left in a thrilling encounter at the Principality Stadium is a mystery to the modern era and their spectacular implosion meant they finished the year with just three wins out of 12 departures. Under Wayne Pivac’s coaching, they won the 2021 Six Nations and were seconds away from hitting a Grand Slam, while also beating the Springboks in South Africa this summer. But those highs were accompanied by crushing lows – notably home losses to Italy and Georgia – to underscore how it was a case of feast or famine.

Wales could turn to Warren Gatland

Could Warren Gtland be the answer to Wales' problems?

Could Warren Gtland be the answer to Wales’ problems? (Ben Whitley/AP)

When Wales picked up their maiden victory over the Springboks in South Africa just four months ago, any prospects of Warren Gatland coaching them at next year’s World Cup would have been dismissed as wildly imaginative. Such a scenario, however, now appears a distinct possibility as Pivac desperately clings to his work. If the Welsh Rugby Union bosses decide Pivac’s time is up after suffering 20 defeats in his 34 Tests at the helm, then Gatland is firmly in the frame to take over on an interim 12-month deal.

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