Autumn Nations Series W4 wrap: Questions must be answered over White concussion call

It was another thrilling weekend of rugby as the Autumn Nations Series delivered drama for the fourth straight week.

There were wins for Ireland, Scotland and France, while England and New Zealand played out a 25-all draw at Twickenham.

But the result of the weekend came in Cardiff, where the 14th ranked Georgia created history with their 13-12 victory over Wales.

Read on as we break down some of the key talking points from the weekend's action.


A week after Italy's shock win over Australia, who knew there was a bigger upset to come.

Georgia's dramatic one-point victory over Wales has been widely celebrated as an historic moment for the Europeans, who retain hope of one day joining the Six Nations. Whether that is an actual reality is debatable, particularly with the Springboks constantly linked with a move north instead,

But there is no doubt that the Georgians are a team on the improve, their scrum, in particular, of the highest quality and the weapon that got them over the line at the Principality Stadium.

Things are not so rosy in Cardiff, however, where the heat has intensified on Wales coach Wayne Pivac. While they were never expected to beat the All Blacks, the heavy nature of that defeat showed how far Wales were off the pace. That disappointment was tempered by a gritty win over the Pumas, with the weekend's clash with Georgia supposed to offer Pivac's side the chance to rest some weary bodies but also build momentum before the visit of Australia.

But any sense of confidence has now been stifled, while Pivac's position as coach is in jeopardy as other problems surround the stability of Welsh rugby.

The only good news, then? That Australia are well and truly limping into Paris for a fifth and final Test of their tour as six players return home with injury and two others return to their overseas clubs.

The Wallabies on Monday announced that Taniela Tupou, Nic White, Andrew Kellaway, Dave Porecki, Rob Valetini and Hunter Paisami would all be unavailable to face Wales, while Bernard Foley and Will Skelton were never slated for the Cardiff finale as the Test falls outside the World Rugby window.

It has left Australia with barely enough troops to put out a fit 23, with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie left scrambling for an inside centre in particular after Paisami joined Samu Kerevi and Lalakai Foketi in what is an unprecedented Australian injury ward.

The decision to schedule a five-match end-of-year tour raised eyebrows even before Australia departed for Europe; the concerns around player welfare clearly superseded by the financial incentive that comes with a portion of the revenue generated by the Tests against Scotland and Wales.

The Wallabies now find themselves in a massive hole as a result, having suffered three straight losses as part of an overall 4-9 record for 2022.

Rennie, like Pivac, is under growing pressure as coach. But the fact Australia have only narrowly been beaten in all three defeats on tour, so too that he has had to manage a squad that was ravaged by injury before it departed, mean it is unlikely there will be a change at the helm of the Wallabies.

And Rugby Australia administrators themselves should really answer for the scheduling of a five-match tour that, for some players at least, mean they will have been training and playing for close to 11 months running.

It's clear that the Wallabies will be starting their run to the World Cup from behind the eight ball, with Quade Cooper, Izack Rodda, Kerevi, Foketi and now Tupou all coming off the long-term injury list.

This tour was apparently designed to prepare the Wallabies for the realities of playing five Tests in five weeks in France, but it looks to have made an already sizeable injury problem that much worse.


Monday's news that Nic White was returning home to Australia has only further added to the controversy surrounding his return to the field following a knock to the head in the 13-10 loss to Ireland.

Vision of White appearing to stumble while in the hands of the Australian trainer was widely shared on social media, with many pointing to that symptom being a category 1 sign of concussion from which a player should not return to the field.

While White was subsequently taken from the field and examined by the independent doctor at the Aviva Stadium, he was cleared to return to play.

Progressive Rugby, a non-for-profit body promoting safety in rugby, were among those to seek a please explain, of sorts, on White's return, a question which has seemingly gained greater weight given the halfback has now been ruled out of the Test with Wales.

"After initially being passed of his HIA by the independent Match Day Doctor, Nic White's criteria two HIA (where diagnosis is not immediately apparent) has been upgraded to a criteria one assessment (balance disturbance) post-match and he will also serve a 12-day stand down period," a Wallabies spokesperson said of the incident.

"White was not exhibiting any symptoms of concussion post-match or the following day."

While the correct decision has now seemingly been made, questions must be asked as to whether the matchday doctor had access to the appropriate vision that showed White's momentary loss of balance.

"I was pulled off by the physio to do an HIA, I felt fine," White said.

"I passed my HIA, I went back on. I remember everything, clear as day, I feel fine. I feel good. I passed my HIA and I was good to go.

"How often do I run out of the corner out of a lineout and get bashed by three blokes? I was just a little ginger, I'm fine mate."

Rugby is generally doing a better job of managing incidents of concussion and return-to-play protocols, but this incident highlights the need for continued vigilance, particularly as we edge closer to next year's World Cup when many more eyeballs will be fixed upon the action.


Argentina don't make life easy on themselves at times, the weekend's 52-29 loss to Scotland a reminder of just how much work coach Michael Cheika has to do on their discipline ahead of next year's World Cup.

The Pumas received a total of three yellow cards at Murrayfield, while flanker Marcos Kremer was sent off for a dangerous cleanout in just the 22nd minute. While Kremer could have few arguments over his dismissal, the incident did raise questions of consistency, as Scotland's Glen Young was given only a yellow for a near identical cleanout on Wallabies scrum-half Tate McDermott a fortnight earlier.

When Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini were both yellow-carded within a minute of each other, the Pumas were reduced to 12 men, the chances of them closing the 24-15 gap at that time growing longer by the second.

Incredibly, however, Argentina were able to score perhaps what was perhaps the try of the match, if for nothing more than they were 12 playing against 15.

With Scotland looking to push their three-man advantage, the hosts shifted the ball from side to side with the Pumas scrambling desperately in defence. Just as it appeared the hosts would run their opposition ragged, Jack Dempsey threw a loose offload and the ball was immediately scooped up by Matias Orlandi.

The Pumas centre tore off downfield on the counterattack from there, before he threw a sumptuous flick pass to the supporting Emiliano Boffelli who streaked away for a memorable try in front of a stunned Murrayfield.

Unfortunately for the Pumas, Scotland responded as expected with a try to Sione Tuipulotu a short while later, before the match very nearly ended up in the stands when an ugly melee broke out.

And ultimately the hosts numerical advantage took its toll, as they ran in four tries to round out comprehensive winners and level their Autumn ledger at 2-2.

The man-of-the-match? Finn Russell.

The player who coach Gregor Townsend had originally left out of his squad for the autumn had a hand in four of his team's eight tries, producing three sensational offloads to help put his outside backs over.

Russell's performance has forced Townsend into a backflip.

"He's now the man in possession and he's played really well the last two weeks, so it will take something from Blair [Kinghorn] and Adam [Hastings] to change that," said Townsend.

"I thought Finn was really good out there and there were parts of his game that don't get talked about a huge amount. I said to him in the changing room he had three tackles in a row in the first half and showed his competitiveness there.

"He worked out that the defence was rushing up on his outside and he took the space that left. He had a very good carrying game and a really good fend and offload, and that created line breaks. And the little kick through in the second half was the right thing to do and created a try for Cam [Redpath].

"His passing skills are up there with the best in the world and maybe we expect that, those great passes, but they led to good opportunities. A very good display."


When Beauden Barrett slotted a drop goal to take the All Blacks out to a 25-6 lead at Twickenham, England looked completely dead and buried. Eddie Jones' side had largely been poor for the 70 minutes' prior, England badly exposed by an excellent New Zealand kicking game and then clunky in attack when they had the ball themselves.

But a break from Marcus Smith suddenly changed all that, the fly-half cutting through the All Blacks' defensive line before he was desperately brought down by Barrett. The All Blacks fullback did not release Smith, however, and with England within metres of the tryline, referee Mathieu Raynal sin-binned Barrett for cynical play.

From there the game exploded into life.

Two tries from replacement prop Will Stuart either side of a Freddie Steward five-pointer brought England level, the hosts suddenly playing with the fluidity and skill that has been in short supply this season.

So when they fielded the final restart after Stuart's second try, the parochial home crowd willing them to victory, it was perhaps a touch surprising to see Smith kick the ball into touch to end the match, rather than an attempt to ride their momentum back upfield and the chance to win it.

The reaction from the Twickenham crowd was mixed, while neither team celebrated the result; the All Blacks knowing they'd let one slip and England that they had played a lot of poor rugby before their surging comeback.

Certainly had the shoe been on the other foot, New Zealand coach Ian Foster said he would have liked his team to have a crack at the win.

"If you flipped it around, I would have liked our guys to have a crack, so I'm not sure what their tactics were," Foster said.

Jones, meanwhile, stood by his players' decision.

"It's always up to the players. I trust their decision-making," the Australia, who is reportedly being courted on an eight-year deal by USA Rugby said.

"I'm not on the field, I don't have access to them. So I just trust their decisions.

"I thought second half we played really well. We're disappointed we didn't win the game, but a draw is a draw, and with the dominance they had in the first half, we could have fallen away.

"You've seen better teams than us fall away against the All Blacks and lose by 40 or 50 points. Absolutely pulverised."

Skipper Owen Farrell, meanwhile, said the slow-ruck ball from the restart had forced Smith's hand.

"We just wanted to see where we were off the ruck," Farrell said. "If we got go-forward, got on the front-foot and had an opportunity, then we wanted to take it, and if not we wanted to make a good decision, and I think that's what was done."