International rugby burst into autumn life at the weekend as the Six Nations stars were thrust into action in the first of their November Tests.
France, who get their autumn underway against South Africa on Saturday, were the only Championship side not in action on a weekend that saw 2018 Six Nations champions Ireland power past Italy with a 54-7 win.
Wales edged past Scotland 21-10 and have now won six Test matches in a row for the first time since their Grand Slam winning season of 2012, while England pipped South Africa 12-11 at Twickenham in a nail-biting arm-wrestle.
With just three months to go until the 2019 Six Nations begins, we decided to take a look at some key statistical performers from the weekend.
In Jacob Stockdale Ireland have a back-three player who took plenty of the headlines in the 2018 Six Nations, setting a record of seven tries scored in one Championship.
Jordan Larmour, 21, also joined Stockdale in making his debut in Rugby’s Greatest Championship earlier this year, making three substitute appearances, but is increasingly looking like a man too difficult to leave out of a starting XV.
Metres made 245 – Jordan Larmour – Ireland 95 – Michele Campagnaro – Italy 87 – Luca Sperandio – Italy 81 – Jacob Stockdale – Ireland 68 – Blair Kinghorn – Scotland
Larmour made the most metres in any of the matches featuring Six Nations sides this weekend – 245 – way out in front of next-best Michele Camapagnaro on 95.
The match in Chicago opened up in the second half, where all of Larmour’s three tries were scored, with the young full-back unleashing a barrage of blistering footwork at Soldier Field to make six clean breaks and beat 12 defenders.
Campagnaro, skippering his side, lead from the front with 95 metres made, one try scored and five defenders beaten – the centre also led Italy in terms of carries (13) and made a whopping 20 tackles.
Young full-back Luca Sperandio, 22, was not far behind with 87 metres made while Stockdale claimed 81.
Continuing the trend of young stars leading the way in this statistic, Scotland back-three man Blair Kinghorn is fifth on the list this week with 68 metres made.
Wales wing George North is down the list with 33 metres made but gave an impressive all-round performance against Scotland and touched down for his 34th Wales try, moving past Ieuan Evans as the third top try scorer for Wales in Test rugby history.
England’s match against South Africa was a tighter affair but interestingly all of the Red Rose back-three starters – Jack Nowell, Elliot Daly and Jonny May – made just over 50 metres as they shared the attacking workload.
THE WELSH WALL
Wales’s victory over Scotland in Cardiff, their tenth such victory in a row, was a strange match in which all the points were scored within 50 minutes, the home side building a lead and then tackling like men possessed to keep their opponent at bay.
The inauguration of the Doddie Weir Cup also saw Wales win the opening Test of their autumn for the first time since 2002 – a feat built on defence and lead by back rowers Dan Lydiate and Ross Moriarty.
Tackles made 24 – Ross Moriarty – Wales 23 – Dan Lydiate – Wales 23 – Johan Meyer – Italy 20 – Michele Campagnaro – Italy 19 – Marco Fuser – Italy
The powerful No.8 edged the tackle statistics this weekend – 24 to Lydiate’s 23, thundering into Scottish attackers at every opportunity and helping restrict their opponent to one try scored.
The Azzurri were on a similar mission against an Ireland side intent on cutting loose against them, handing a debut to back row Johan Meyer – a venus flytrap to attackers with 23 tackles made.
Italy were without breakthrough 2018 Six Nations stars Sebastian Negri and Jake Polledri in Chicago and look to be building a real back-row force to be reckoned with ahead of the Spring.
Captain Campagnaro is next on the list with 20, closely followed by lock Marco Fuser with 19 tackles made. Ireland’s top tackler of the weekend was Jack Conan with 17, while Hamish Watson (16) and Maro Itoje (15) lead their sides in this respect.
SCOTTISH RUNNING GAME
Ireland centre Bundee Aki, who started all five matches of the 2018 Six Nations, leads the way with carries this week (22) – not a surprising statistic for a workhorse midfielder who often leads the way for Connacht and Ireland in this regard.
More surprisingly, just behind him with 21 runs is young Scottish fly-half Adam Hastings – a rare statistic for a playmaker.
Carries made 22 carries – Bundee Aki – Ireland 21 – Adam Hastings – Scotland 18 – Rhys Ruddock – Ireland 14 – Blair Kinghorn – Scotland 14 – Ryan Wilson – Scotland
Whether this statistic is down to a set plan from head coach Gregor Townsend and Hastings or owes more to the Welsh defence cutting off passes, it’s an interesting development in No.10 play for Scotland, who have this week called up to Duncan Weir to the squad.
Next up in terms of carries we have Irish blindside Rhys Ruddock, who extended his winning streak as Ireland captain to five Tests and made 18 carries against the Azzurri.
There were two more Scots in the top five for carries made this week, back row Ryan Wilson made 14, as did Kinghorn.