Exeter boss Rob Baxter has predicted an “incredible” Guinness Six Nations Championship this season following northern hemisphere countries’ autumn success.
The Autumn Nations Series was dominated by outstanding performances from England, Ireland and France, while injury-hit Wales and Gregor Townsend’s Scotland both defeated Australia.
England rounded off an unbeaten campaign by edging past world champions South Africa and avenging their 2019 World Cup final defeat.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 20, 2021
But France stole all headlines later on Saturday through a stunning 40-25 victory over New Zealand.
The All Blacks’ loss in Paris followed a third defeat in five meetings against Ireland seven days previously, with Ireland following that success up by crushing Argentina 53-7.
Current title odds for the Six Nations, which kicks off in early February, have little to choose between current favourites France (6/4), with England at 5/2 and Ireland 7/2.
Exeter trio Henry Slade, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds were all involved in the Springboks encounter as England completed an impressive autumn series after comfortably toppling Australia and Tonga.
“It is a big statement point to make, particularly after what happened in the World Cup,” Exeter rugby director Baxter said.
“It has been a great series for the northern hemisphere. It has really kind of levelled the playing field, and it should hopefully give guys a lot of confidence going forward.
“England have got a tour of Australia next summer, and there is a lot of positive stuff to look forward to.
A weekend to remember 🙌
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 22, 2021
“It certainly looks like the Six Nations is going to be an absolutely incredible tournament. How anyone is going to split Ireland, France and England after the autumn is incredible.
“Scotland also look like an improving picture, and Wales – I don’t care what anyone says, Wales against England is never going to be an easy fixture, no matter what form goes into that game.
“The fixtures are going to come thick and fast, and they are going to be incredible.”
Exeter and England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, meanwhile, is continuing his recovery from an ankle ligament injury suffered last month that sidelined him from the entire autumn Test schedule.
Initial hopes were for him to be available by the time Exeter launch their Heineken Champions Cup campaign against Montpellier on December 11.
“He is still on track,” Baxter added.
“It might be a little bit early for him this week, but he is close to being back in full training, so that (Europe) is still a possibility.”