This weekend was a huge blow to rugby in the northern hemisphere.

For England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland to beat Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina away is a huge boost for the European game.

Home nation wins are rare in the southern hemisphere, so to make a clean sweep is just great. This immediately adds spice to the World Cup next year.

England beat Australia in Brisbane and next week’s deciding series in Sydney

Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time in New Zealand to level the three-match series

Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time in New Zealand to level the three-match series

France will now move to number one in the world rankings, with Ireland in second and England in fifth

France will now move to number one in the world rankings, with Ireland in second and England in fifth

It was clear to me that international rugby was the next game and nothing else should matter, but to win the World Cup it’s essential that you’re not afraid to go up against the best on the planet.

I remember one of the first press conferences I gave in Perth when we came to Australia for the 2003 tournament. The journalist asked me if we have the right to be one of the favorites.

My response was, “Why not? Surely we are the favourites?’ It wasn’t a typically English response and it surprised the journalists, but as a team we consistently beat the best teams in the world, home and away.

You have to be confident that you can beat teams like New Zealand and South Africa, because if you don’t, you’re almost beaten before you step on the field.

Scotland complete clean sweep of Northern Hemisphere sides with win over Argentina

Scotland complete clean sweep of Northern Hemisphere sides with win over Argentina

Wales also scored a dramatic late win over South Africa in Bloemfontein

Wales also scored a dramatic late win over South Africa in Bloemfontein

That’s why Saturday’s results were so important, especially since the wins were away from home. England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland will be full of beans, with all four nations having decisive series this weekend.

It is not good for the game to have predictable results and for the giants of the southern hemisphere to win all the time. On Saturday there will be a celebration of rugby where everything will be going on.

I was pleased with England’s performance in the first half and I think they now have a serious chance of going on and winning their streak.

Ireland, meanwhile, appear to be going from strength to strength under Andy Farrell. What a job he did with them. I’m talking about not having to fear the giants of the southern hemisphere – heck, Ireland are used to beating the All Blacks now!

England improved greatly in the first half against Australia, using their hammer to good effect

England improved greatly in the first half against Australia, using their hammer to good effect

Ireland are getting better and better under head coach Andy Farrell

Ireland are getting better and better under head coach Andy Farrell

All four head coaches deserve a lot of credit. Eddie Jones, Pharrell, Wayne Pivac and Gregor Townsend will be very pleased. Of course, their work isn’t done yet, but their teams have made great strides in the right direction.

Wales in particular has taken a surprising turn. They were very poor in the Six Nations and lost at home to Italy for the first time, so to beat the world champions in their own backyard is a remarkable feat.

I think Pivatz should be given a pat on the back – he was very confident going into South Africa and was open about it.

I’m sure it wasn’t just me who thought the confidence was misplaced, but Pivak and his team nailed it. They had to win the first test and then claim the second.

Wayne Pivac's Wales have returned from the Six Nations and are growing in confidence

Wayne Pivac’s Wales have returned from the Six Nations and are growing in confidence

Some will point to South Africa’s 14 changes and say Wales were given a chance, but this was still a very strong Springbok side with Eben Etzebeth and Handre Pollard. Any team that can land the Premier League’s best player in Andre Osterhuizen has serious quality. Well done Wales. Now go and finish your work.

The same goes for England, Ireland and Scotland.

What strikes me is that the weekend’s results mean that France will now top the world rugby rankings, with Ireland in second place. You might think that ratings mean nothing, but they don’t because they give you invaluable confidence and faith.

France has now moved to the top of the world rankings - a major boost for the northern hemisphere

France has now moved to the top of the world rankings – a major boost for the northern hemisphere

They demonstrate excellence over a long period and are not reflected in one-off victories to win the World Cup.

That belief will now begin to grow in Jones, Farrell, Pivak and Townsend, and they must not let that feeling slip away.

The challenge is to make sure Saturday’s results are not isolated incidents.

The competitive rivalry between the north and the south only enhances our great game. It’s been a long time, but this time it will stay.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-11000361/SIR-CLIVE-WOODWARD-Northern-hemisphere-clean-sweep-boost-ahead-World-Cup.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

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